The final part of Richard Ince's Talking Beast. A candid inquiry into the nature of homo vulgaris. (London: W. Hodge & Co., 1944.) It is a heartfelt and still interesting polemic from the 1940s. Ince acknowledges as his inspiration (and mentor) Archibald Weir, the Buddha of Marley Common:
"...it might be supposed that I am a disciple of Archibald Weir.. I am a disciple of no one, preferring to seek truth wherever I discern it. In the East they have a saying: "Where there is no Buddha hurry on, and where there is a Buddha, do not linger." The paradox would certainly have been approved by Weir, who wrote: "I do not seek to formulate tenets or to make disciples. The intent of these books would be frustrated entirely if any such success were obtained among their readers. All that I can wish to offer is assistance to earnest minds in the effort to think for themselves...'
Having found a signed and jacketed copy (at a sadly low price) we can reprint the blurb from the inside flap and also a press-cutting pasted to the rear endpaper. This review from The Field leads one to think this may have been Ince's own copy and the book was reviewed by this horsey magazine because it was about an animal...
Inside d/w flap reads:
Our present world is not, for many, a pleasant place in which to live. The conditions force even the least thoughtful to consider why they are here. People ask: Has western civilisation failed? Has Christianity failed? Is there hope in the Churches? In religion? And, if so, of what kind? Only a fool or a knave could be satisfied with things as they are. Only a fool or a knave could imagine that outbreaks of hatred and the competitive spirit could bring peace or satisfaction. This book by an author who has thought deeply and experienced deeply looks without prejudice or ready-made opinion on the content of our consciousness as it exists today. He has attained a philosophy which brings order out of chaos and a measure of peace out of strife and muddle.
If you are not satisfied with the world as it appears to you and believe there are better possibilities for every one, you should read TALKING BEAST. It will help you to face bedrock facts, no matter how ugly, with courage and cheerfulness.
The press-cutting reads:
International Press-Cutting Bureau - London. THE FIELD.
11 November 1944.
This is a book, as arresting as its title, which is better read twice than once. It will produce both acceptance and antagonism, according to the reader's mental progress from talking beast to mature human. It is neither a religious nor a psychological book, but an unprejudiced expression of the fundamentals of true living, of human contacts, of business relationships, of the reasons and uses of the muddle talking beast has made on the world. Richard Ince does not look upon Christianity as a religion (organised), but as the enlightened personal way of life. He reasons that no mere religion is ever final, no Government the attainment of perfection, no science the last word and no death the end of life. Development wing the essence of creation, man's fullest living lies in adapting his being to the still small guiding voice, in the wisdom of "accepting the shoves and pokes of Destiny cheerfully and graciously". Talking beast walks in ignorance, thinking he knows, forever grabbing, and with no sense of values; yet there is always the gleam of light available, giving the wise judgement and the serenity that liberation from the material clatter of modern existence gives. Richard Ince unties many knots in the tangle in which we find humanity.
THE BOUNDARIES OF NECESSITY AND THE MARCHES OF FREEDOM
The English-speaking peoples have always been much concerned with the idea of freedom. They have been everywhere leaders in the struggle against aggression and, the tyranny of the few over the many. Not being a logically-minded folk, but more easily moved to loyalties of the heart than of the head, their history has been subject to strange turns and unexpected developments. They have been devotedly loyal to the idea of kingship but they have never yielded to the illusion that kings or emperors or dictators are intrinsically superior to themselves. They are jealous of their own divine right to grumble and criticize, they greatly prefer the romantic fiction of kingship to its stern reality. They delight in appointing a strong ruler and then whittling away his powers until it becomes difficult to decide who is ruler and who is ruled.
Freedom in the popular regard is an extremely loose conception. Broadly defined it would seem to indicate the right of each individual to manage his life entirely in his own way. Such a conception is but the vaguest of abstractions, and on analysis is found to hold only a negative value. It is the attitude of the man who sturdily announces: "I will tolerate no interference."
On examination it becomes apparent that the life of. the Miller of Dee was far from satisfactory. Even when regarded from the lower levels, the legend of the jolly miller, though it gave birth to a good song, was certainly rooted in the sterile ground of egoism.
Freedom has ever been the noblest of war cries. But in the quiet and reflective times of peace honest inquiries into its nature gives occasion for many doubts. Much that passes for freedom in the debased currency of human speech is found on examination to be no more than the licence claimed by ego. Ego is ever on the alert to assert its "rights" and to dominate others, while priding itself on its altruistic zeal. This lack of discernment in talking beast's perception breeds much mischief. Thus it often happens that. he who shouts loudest in praise of freedom is most dominated and enslaved by ego. This truth is vividly illustrated in the private lives of many politicians. The most forceful social democrat is often found in his home life to be no better than a domestic dictator. In public he is known for his lofty flights of rhetoric, declaiming that all must enjoy equality; at home he is quite content to have a slave in the kitchen and is furious if his wife expresses an opinion contrary to his own. Human frailty wriggles away from the contemplation of such hypocricy; repeating the popular saying: No man is a hero to his valet. It would be truer to say that to the beast no man can be a hero.
Adult man has, great difficulty in realizing that the core of freedom lies in Self and not in ego. Ego is continually beating unavailingly against the hard framework of circumstance, and the more fiercely it beats the more severely does it punish itself. We are all born into a condition of almost complete slavery. We find ourselves in a world of space, and time with a number of needs that must be satisfied by others, and our early attitude is one of lusty rebellion. The first sound we emit is a cry of protest. Later, the hostility expressed in that first infantile bellowing will be shaped into words. Remembering the texture of spate-time life we have always to be on our guard. No matter how great be our academic attainment, much of what we write and teach may be no more free of egoistic rebellion than was the infant's cry. But because we use learned and impressive words, the origin of our message is not so apparent. Still enslaved to the egoistic forces, we grow to adult life. Some few go further, relax their hold on ego, attain to maturity and pass through the devastating experience of a second birth. But for the majority adult existence is the rule. They talk, they struggle, they respond to the pull of immediate pleasure, they live in the dream of a dream which they mistake for reality. Not until they are approaching the higher condition of maturity do they begin to ponder on the problem of whether they are free agents or the playthings of necessity.
To get a better understanding of the problem it is necessary to look far ahead and see man as the finished being he is destined to become. So long as he is controlled only by ego and personality there would appear to be no hope for the maturing process. For the adult there can be nothing but toil, struggle and the unease of restless life leading to dissolution. If in the pages of history we could see nothing but the meaningless contention 4 egos and personalities, the scene would be illuminated by no ray of hope. History, considered from this angle, can provide nothing but counsel of despair. No philosophy could be based upon it, no cheer for suffering men; no lessons in the art of living. Happily there is no page of history, no matter how dark the age under review, which does not show the influence of Self infiltrating here and there to oppose or mitigate the savagery of ego and to introduce humanitarian inspiration. in our civilization, consciousness and the thought process are far from being generally understood. To adult man the conception of a thought-atmosphere, akin to the physical atmosphere we breathe, must appear remote and unconvincing. His experience of such an atmosphere is too fragmentary and too elementary to bring true understanding. As he advances, however, from the adult to the mature condition of being he becomes far more sensitive to the atmosphere of thought in which we all live,' he begins to realize that we are not isolated units occupied with a mental process called thinking, which goes on in the grey matter underneath our skulls, but that we are all linked up by the vast ocean of the unconscious processes, racial and personal, which feed consciousness: an ocean out of which spring those clear sequences of pictures we call "thinking." The physical ocean, with its unfathomable depths, is everywhere the symbol of this unconscious. It is met with in inspired scriptures; it is met with in psychology and dreams. The description here given of the process referred to is as close and accurate as is possible in using the crude instrument of human speech.
To imagine, as many of our forefathers did, that the humanitarian stream of thought came into the world either by chance or by man's conscious striving, would be to misunderstand the purpose of Self in our space-time consciousness. Figuratively speaking, ego is lord of the region of bondage and Self of the marches of freedom. It is always and everywhere the lightening of the burden of ego which increases freedom, even in the sphere where the hard framework of necessity, material, social and psychical is most in control. We see the beginnings of the higher leading of Self in the insistence of codes of manners and morals by even the most primitive civilization. The manners and morals imposed may be far from ideal, may even be cruel, ignorant and superstitious, but they at least amount to a slight gesture of humble acknowledgment of a higher power whose aim is far different from the egoistic struggle to survive. In these slight, elementary movements the still small voice of Self begins to be heard. In Sir James Fraser's Golden Bough we read of the many customs, religions, magical and ethical which are the infants designed to grow into orthodox science and institutional religion. A great deal must not be expected of these efforts even when they have grown into accredited science and respectable religion for they are held back by the herd instinct and the herd instinct prefers comfortable time-honoured inertia to the dangerous pioneering prompted by Self.
Talking beast in the adult condition is necessarily puzzled by the controversy as to whether human beings live under a system of free will or are under the complete control of fate. He is under the misapprehension that study and hard thinking can settle the problem. He does not realize that his consciousness is no more static than is any other living process and is limited and controlled according to the zone he has attained. No academic training will enable him to understand the problem; he must wait patiently until consciousness itself changes, deepens and widens. He must get rid of the herd-beleif that there is only one kind of consciousness for mankind and that the only food consciousness requires is to be found in schools, books and universities. In other words, the problem is not a problem of thinking but a problem of being. The more tightly he is bound by the fetters of the ego, the more closely will his freedom of thought, understanding and action be confined in the prison-house of space and time. The more he identifies his life with the promptings and aspirations of Self the wider will his sphere of freedom become. But life, as we experience it on this planet, is strictly limited and confined. We are never masters of time or of space in anything but a crude journalistic sense. Though we have "mastered the air" we are still killed stone dead if we fall a few hundred feet out of a plane. The bird is in far better case, for his mastery of the air is so complete that he is never killed by a fall.
How then can it be asserted with any truth that man is master of his fate? We move here among thoughts that' are difficult and hard to reconcile one with another. The human animal must exercise patience. He must humbly admit that despite all his outward attainments he is still unfinished. The sparrow, in its order, is a more finished creation than he. He must be content to wait upon those influences which will assist him to reach a greater degree of maturity.
At this point my reader will probably become suspicious. He will look for some hidden motive. He may even' suspect that I am the emissary of some new religion or the secret agent of some society aimed at the framing of a new ideology. I must ask him therefore to take my word for it that I am not a Jesuit nor an impresario of the Cambridge Group; neither am I a High Anglican nor a Low Buddhist. I am simply a talking beast who wants to know and understand, and as a result of this keen desire or aspiration, certain small but deeply significant experiences have come to me which I would fain share, so far as such experiences can be shared with others. Talking beast naturally does not wish to join any religion or movement that is likely to make serious demands upon his time or interfere with his sturdy independence. For this reason he is naturally suspicious. But if it is a question of becoming a better beast, a little less beastly, more efficient and more successful in the art of living, well, he might hesitate before turning away with a shrug. But probably somewhere at the back of his mind lurks the belief that science has made the solution of dark problems easier than it used to be in pre-scientific days. And since science rests wholly on the reasoning faculty, he is led to believe that, no matter how he lives, if he only thinks clearly, good and desirable results must follow. This is an illusion which a true understanding of the function of the unconscious will correct. But the man of scientific training whose mental food is the daily press, clings desperately to the reasoning faculty of the conscious mind. It was largely owing to this tendency that a few years ago a number of intelligent people were led astray by the seemingly attractive red herring known as behaviourism. The behaviourists claimed to have made a most important scientific discovery. They had discovered that men's morals and even their highest aspirations, were due solely to the proper functioning of their glands. If you were a degenerate who had served several terms in prison, all that need be done was to send you to a gland specialist who would find out which of your glands was out of order, give you the injection indicated, and you would, after a course of treatment, be transformed scientifically from a sinner into a saint. Religionists did not like the discovery, but many scientists were delighted with it. It seemed to put the whole universe of thought and of becoming, into their hands. It opened up Wellsian dreams of the possibilities of things to come. Such a theory, silly as it was, might have done quite a lot of damage had not certain philosophers drawn attention to the fact that the behaviourists, whether good scientists or not, were very weak thinkers. They had quite cheerfully taken it for granted that space-time and matter are all separate, independent entities. They did not realize that these conceptions are creations of consciousness fashioned out of an ephemeral world, wholly transient in its nature. It is easy enough to build a house when one has been given the material. The behaviourists, unfortunately for them, had no material with which to build. They. could not create glands; they could only deal with those already in existence. And even these foundations were continually changing. In other words the behaviourists were trying to prove that man is the creation of his glands. He may be, but what is all while creating his glands? Instead of explaining a difficulty they simply pushed it further back. Behaviourism might be expected to prove attractive to the back the inert for if a simple injection can cure not only your body but your soul, how much easier and less would life become.
Behaviourism. would not be worth mentioning were it not one more signpost pointing to the stupidity of talking beast and to the fact that he is always open to infection from the many silly ideas floating about in the thought stream. Education as we have it to-day is not capable of providing immunity to any large extent. The breeding grounds of propaganda are immense. They are found wherever there are inertia, greed, hatred and peevishness. The greatest danger arises when such breeding grounds are deliberately taken over by the State to foster the primitive instincts of the beast. When fear and compulsion are applied under dictatorship the resulting social disease spreads havoc far and wide.
Social life, no less than science.is necessarily built on structure of make-believe. It is composed of grades, officers and classes. We have a king, president or dictator, and under him a more or less intricate system of public servants to whom power of one kind or another is delegated Intrinsically these different grades of rank or position have no true or permanent value because they are not based on the real qualities of the individuals concerned. They but external badges, enabling personalities and egos to discharge certain necessary functions. These personalities and egos act according to their nature, attending to their own interests first and the interests of the State afterwards. The man of to-day is, not quite awake to the true state of case and is not inclined to be honest about it. He does not realize that. he is a beast with the faculty of talking and reasoning, and therefore he has all kinds of illusions about himself and others. He either expects too much or too little from human nature. He expects the doctor to act towards him as a good samaritan and charge him little or nothing for his services; he, expects the clergyman to be the sort of saint who will listen to all his grievances with complete sympathy and will reassure him of the fact (of which he is at times: doubtful) that he is really an awfully decent fellow. He may even expect the lawyer to act as a kind of terrestrial clergyman, save him from foolish blunders and send in only occasional and very moderate bills. Or else he takes such a low estimate of human nature that his life degenerates into a daily grouse against the wickedness of the man next door and the fellow over the way. The wise man constantly remembers that rank, profession and position in society carry no weight in the kingdom of reality. They are entirely superficial and makeshift. Each individual must be considered on his own merits no matter where he be in the social scale.
The social make-believe by which we live is certainly necessary and unavoidable in space-time living. If man were suddenly given the capacity to see through I externals to the truth within, society would come toppling down in ruins. But out of the ruins a truer way of living and a more mature society might be built. The crucible of war tends, in slight degree, to have this effect.
Freedom in the political sense is too crude a conception to throw much light on the possibilities of freedom as here considered. Political freedom is mainly negative. It aims at breaking down tyranny wherever and whenever found. A fair field for all and no favour is the basic condition in view. In, cherishing this excellent ideal humans unhappily forget that they are talking beasts. Difficulties flourish like a weed as soon as the fair field has been provided. The name of the weed is ego. Governments are powerless to stamp out ego. You cannot get rid of it as you extinguish a fire by organizing an army of fire-fighters. You can only slightly and with difficulty neutralize its ravages by legislation. You cannot, by teaching children to read and write or by feeding sociology or some form of religious dogma to them, sublimate it into constructive channels. You may get rid of political tyranny by shooting the dictator and rounding up his gestapo, but the fundamental problem of the ego-pull in man's unconscious will still remain. It will remain until he has passed through the various stages maturity and attained complete manhood. Only then will he be free forever from the pull of ego and at one with the forces of destiny. To make this statement is not to belittle the vital importance of political freedom. Without it all, progress and development is doomed to wither and die, The dictator-ridden state can only run through the old vicious circle of change in which the rot within festers and breaks out in neurosis or actual physical disease. It is an attempt to embalm existing conditions in the body politic. In this way the corpse can be preserved for a long it will never be anything but a corpse and a centre of infection. There must be freedom of thought and freedom from all compulsions except such as are necessary in interests of safety, morality and the maintenance of essential services to the State. Without these Self is hampered in its efforts for a fuller life and a better fulfilment of its trusteeship towards others.
Nevertheless crude methods can only attain crude ends and for those who would get a better understanding of the boundaries of necessity and the marches of freedom it is necessary to consider more closely the cords with which ego seeks to make Self a prisoner, and the methods which Self must employ in its efforts to gain freedom in spacetime living; freedom to bring more light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
So elusive is Self that its very existence is held in doubt or identified with ego until a fair degree of maturity is reached. No doubt some readers will imagine that I am concerned with a fiction when I write about Self. Perhaps .they would even expect an, effort to be made to convince them by argument, unconscious of the fact that argument can prove nothing. Here is a case then for waiting upon growth: denial in this connexion may be as emphatic as it will and intellectualism as triumphantly assured, but in no case can the good offices of Self be escaped. That still small voice insists at times on being heard. It is a clear, deep whisper that cannot always be drowned by the loud shouting of even the most tempestuous ego; and the effort to drown it frequently results in those forms of illness the psychologists call neurosis, and the doctors call hysteria.
The quality which renders Self so elusive is the share it has partly in the nature of time and partly in the nature of timelessness. For Self stands at the gateway between the conscious and the unconscious and can look either way. In one direction he is in contact with a world of ephemeral change, separated at many degrees from reality, and in the other direction he looks into a. world of darkness and yet a world which might not be dark were it not for the dazzling light of the space-time world which intrinsically appears to have no meaning. For the time-consciousness is certainly based on something deeper, glimpses of which have been revealed by certain experiments of the psychologists and by certain experiences of the mystics. Self existed before the time-consciousness came into being, and Self will continue to exist after the time-consciousness has been obliterated by the shattering of the physical envelope. Self in timelessness is beyond dualism, beyond the boundaries, of necessity and the marches of freedom. But in incarnation it finds itself imprisoned in the hard framework of matter and compelled to work, along with others, in conditions limited by the time-space of consciousness and by certain codes, 'conventions and moralities which the individual has evolved in the long process of his struggle to rise in the scale of being. At birth Self knows hardly any freedom at all. Its only reaction to hard circumstance is, as stated above, a cry. With the passing of years the marches of freedom are extended slightly. The method by which freedom grows is strictly personal to the individual. It depends on an ever greater mastery of the art of living wisely in space-time conditions and an increasing power to discriminate between the values of things. The feeble-minded, a category which includes almost the whole adult population, tend to stress the wrong things, and hence the music of life is spoilt by false emphasis. In this way Self is led on to the great discovery, not made until the advance stages of maturity have been attained, that Self universal, (the Atman of Hindu philosophy) is the only absolute value, all else being relative, perishing and only of symbolic significance.
In the conditions imposed by incarnation, limited by the narrow vision of tenuous, time-space consciousness, baffled by the dark surround of the unconscious from which it appears to come and to which it appears to go, Self asks a crucial question: Why am I here? Obviously its purpose is different from that of ego and personality which are only concerned with the material conditions which have produced them, and whose purpose is to survive at any cost. Self's hopes are not set on survival for it has its home in the imperishable real. It is fed always by the higher unconscious, even to its highest reaches. And it is one with the source of all wisdom. Why has Self come to endure the narrow conditions, the fever and the fret of ~ life which seems devoid of meaning and purpose? This is a searching problem which haunts the reasoning mind, seeming insoluble. Yet even the adult is not left in complete darkness. There is a ray of light, and with increase of freedom the light will grow. The beginnings of revelation come to him from his higher unconscious mind. From this quarter come certain aspirations and impulses which have no connexion with the survival urge of ego and no part with the vain assertiveness of personality. All humanitarian efforts have their origin in this sphere. The great leaders of mankind have borne witness to this fact. But there, is no need of any external revelation or dependence on historic evidence, for the most compelling evidence is found in the human being's own consciousness. If such light as he finds there is dim, it is himself he has to blame. The windows are there but the glass must be kept dean. If his windows are dirty with the black soot of ego or painted with the alluring colours of personality he must not expect a clear illumination.
Perhaps to seek to express in words that which needs to be known in experience is futile. The nearest we can get to . expressing the matter in crude language is to say that Self has incarnated to gain a particular experience and to suffer those uncomfortable encounters inevitable from trying to help others in their pilgrimage. Such offices may result in crucifixion; they may result in a draught of hemlock or they may result in a lift of petty pinpricks and vexations. But in any event Self remains serene, capable of withdrawing into itself and knowing always the deeper harmony which is its link with the creator.
When we consider the purpose of the individual life on earth, in all its detail, it is hard to interpret. It all appears haphazard and indeterminate. A centre of consciousness finds itself the child of certain parents, living in a certain country, in a certain sector of the time-process. The rational consciousness can ascertain no reason for its coming to these people at this time and place. The circumstances almost always appear hard and other than the individual would have selected if he had been consulted. Only a far deeper experience of the situation and a far keener insight than the adult possesses could throw the necessary light on this dark problem. A true understanding of living processes reveals the fact that nothing in the universe happens by chance. That it appears to do so is due to the fact that we are not acquainted with all the laws involved. If you fling a handful of sand into the air the grains will fall to the ground and form a pattern. A number of forces are at work directing what form that pattern shall take. But not the acutest human intelligence can follow all these forces so as to foretell where each grain will fall. Self's incarnation is a resultant of many forces, but these forces are acting in a region far higher than that of space-time consciousness. The individual life on earth is, figuratively speaking, like that grain of sand. It is also like a page of a romance into which a reader dips at random. He does not know what came before nor how the story will develop later. Were he in possession of this before-and-after knowledge, Self's purpose would be clearly revealed to him. Nor would he have any occasion for regret, no matter how difficult or how painful the pilgrimage might prove at times. For Self, which has taken all wisdom for its province, does not make mistakes. It has an end in view and always and everywhere it uses whatever 'means come to hand to further that end. The only regrets feeble-mindedness is justified in feeling are regrets that it did not always make the best of its opportunities. Too often it failed to react to external happenings in the way wisdom prescribed. For here the will, inspired by aspiration, can be used with vital and far-reaching effect, and here it is that the adult can, if he will, very definitely extend the marches of freedom. To meet every situation as it arises with sincere inward serenity, a serenity very different from make-believe cheerfulness, that conceals impatience beneath, is the only true and helpful reaction. Nothing short of this will satisfy the aspirations of Self. Unless there be a true serenity of spirit and the capacity to sink down into the deeps that lie beneath surface peevishness, the earthly pilgrimage becomes a vague, purposeless wandering. For no altruistic effort, no faithfulness to duty, no scrupulous observance of social or religious codes can take the place of this fundamental need for serenity and tranquillity in the inner life of the individual; a serenity and tranquillity fed and sustained not by inertia or the insensitiveness that may result from a good digestion and a vigorous constitution, but by a wisdom which has learnt to discriminate between the valuable and the valueless.
Thus it will come to be understood by those capable of seeking enlightenment that the purpose of Self in space-time is to extend the marches of freedom. The great world which forms the stuff out of which the spot-light of consciousness is fashioned and upon which it is directed, is at first utterly confusing. Everything has to be regarded, considered, practised. Talking beast does not understand himself. Others present continual surprises. And while the poor beast is puzzling over the strange and contradictory messages received by its sense perceptions, it suddenly finds itself the target for a ' barrage of helpers known as teachers, professors, schoolmasters and committees for herding talking beasts into the pens of education None of these is at all interested in the puzzled questions of the little beast. They are not sages or philosophers or inspired guides but just paid officials who receive a salary for imparting information according to schedule. It is a difficult situation for Self whose home is reality and who is in touch with cosmic or universal consciousness, from which. all wisdom comes. On the one hand are the professors who teach that William conquered England in 1066, and that when water reaches a certain degree of hotness it turns into a warm mist, and on the other hand is Self who whispers that all this is mere foolishness, waste. of time, of little value to anyone except the teachers who make a living out of it, and the politicians who fight one another as to which kind of information shall be fed to the children and how much milk shall be supplied to keep their bodies in a suitable condition for mental stuffing. Self whispers that the imperative need is to understand life: to know why the beast is here and what he is to do about it. Will the gaining of a school certificate, Self asks, help him to understand life or to become something better than he is? Will the taking of a college degree, a double first at Oxford or a treble first at Cambridge, help him in these deeper matters which alone have intrinsic value? It is perfectly true that for those in the state of consciousness known as space-time, space and time have their claims. There is a career to be considered and prepared for. Concerning this, Self cares very little, though ego and personality, including the egos and personalities of others, care a great deal. A child knows that if only he can get at the right kind of information and find a sufficiently wise guide, his pilgrimage may become deeply enlightening and purposeful and bring to him priceless treasure of the quality that endures. Stirred fitfully by Self, sometimes consciously, more often unconsciously, he reads books; he seeks out those who appear to understand more than he does; he retires into himself to muse and to consider. At certain times he seems to happen, as it were by chance, on the books or the friends that he most needs at that juncture. In times of crisis it happens that he meets the kind of people who can help him and by all these means he gains a better knowledge of, himself and of his ever-changing moods. He may even begin to understand that his freedom grows in proportion as he learns to control his moods and to pay less attention to the claims of ego. For the higher burden imposed by Self is far lighter than the burden which ego is compelled to stagger under. Self can confidently deliver the fertile message: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. For Self will encourage the beast to journey far beyond the regions of fruitless resistance and grumbling in which ego is doomed for ever to labour, like Sisyphus at his stone.
The chief factor in the struggle for greater freedom is the presence of others. In our earliest days others minister to our needs. Out of these ministrations grows too often an exaggerated sense of responsibility and a false sense of proprietorship. We are born into the world alone; we live alone, notwithstanding all deceptive appearances to the contrary, and we die alone. Such responsibility and proprietorship are therefore fundamentally illusory. Self, which is only partly of this world, is always aware of the true situation. In this connexion talking animal is at a disadvantage as compared with his untalking brothers who in their degree are more finished than himself. He too often gives his children a stone in place of bread, for reason and speech are sadly misleading as to the true values of things. The stark truth, which we are always blinking, calls us to witness that civilization rests on a basis of fear
and self-interest. We have become accustomed to herd together, not from motives of brotherly love but because we dread loneliness. Yet loneliness is the crucial fact to which we have to become reconciled. The close herding of bodies together will not banish but will rather increase that loneliness, for dislike or hatred of another drives us far from him in the realm of reality. We may linger for hours to gossip in the market place, but always and inevitably weariness supervenes and consciousness is thrown back upon itself. The sooner humankind realize the true basis on which civilization rests, the better for them. No good will result from trying to trace its origin to the ministrations of religion, the inspiration of the spirit or the march of a progress destined to lead to some ultimate millenium. Our human dwellings, whether in Park Lane or Old Kent Road, are built upon the mud and it is ego which has built them. It is well that we should cheerfully and humbly accept the facts.
Only if we bear in mind what civilization is and the forces which have brought it into being shall we be properly equipped to tackle the many problems which others present to us and which we present to others. If we are to have sincere relationships with others we must clear our minds of much cant which has become enshrined in social life. Insincerity only leads to further insincerity and the clinging to false values in the intimate relationships of life. Man in society is continually slipping into these false relationships and thereby causing himself surprise and bewilderment. He calls things by their wrong names and is Surprised, when disaster results. If you ask for a hairbrush and are supplied with a carving knife, and if, in the interests of peace-at-any-price, you co-operate in the fiction that the carving-knife is a hairbrush, daily life will not thereby be rendered easier. The illustration may appear trivial and absurd but it is no exaggeration of a condition which prevails among many nice people to-day. There is a widespread convention that parents and children are always and everywhere very near and dear to one another. Intimate acquaintance with quite a small circle of families anywhere in the world proves such a belief to be false. It is the rare exception and not the rule for parents and children to be in close and intimate sympathy. When such conditions prevail there is occasion for the deepest gratitude to destiny. Parents and children need to rise above this foolish current convention and to take a dispassionate view of the relationship between them. The adult is not likely to become a wise parent nor can children in that state be expected to deal with the intimate relationship with much wisdom. By mutual forbearance they may avoid the worst disasters. An honest attempt to' keep the relationship sincere will be of decided value. But if current sentimental conventions be mistaken for basic truth, much misunderstanding and suffering are bound to result. Humility is needed on both sides and some understanding of the origin and purpose of ego and personality. But man's innate hardness of heart usually prevents him from humbling himself to the requisite degree. He thus shuts in his own face the door to progress.
When the single life has passed from maturity to complete manhood it will have learnt that its treatment of others can only be expressed in the form of a trusteeship. By that time ego and personality will have passed entirely under the control of Self universal. The complete man will no longer be deflected from his path by the lure of personality or the urge of ego. He will not claim leadership but leadership will I be accorded- to him, for in the country of the blind the sighted man is king. Relationships according to the flesh will have little meaning for him. His trusteeship compels him to look equally on all. From others he demands trust and a faithful willingness to accept guidance. Failing these no assistance is possible. Friendship that is simply a refined gregariousness has no significance in his eyes. In the sphere in which he works, the rebuke "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" will be found to be neither harsh, inhuman nor unkind; for his loyalty will always be to the deeper truth and to the higher reality. Earthly ties will have no binding force except in so far as they are based upon the real, the true and the sincere. His presence among others, no matter how catastrophic in its effects, will be their greatest blessing, for it will help them to understand that it is the truth that makes us free, and that whatsoever tends to make us free, in the fullest and deepest sense, is true.
The completed man will have risen above all creeds, for these must ever be based on half truths, and the maps presented by the various religions will be of service to him only in assisting others to approach nearer to reality by the ways best suited to their position in the zone of being which they have reached.
Discussion and argument as to whether humans have free will or are controlled like puppets at the end of a string as fate decides, can only evoke interest among those who confuse the sphere of intellect with the sphere of experience, which includes the whole content of consciousness–the all, and not merely the flickering cinematograph of spot-light attention. The problem must forever remain insoluble for logical reasoning; and those. intellectuals and scientists who have not proceeded far enough along the path to reality to comprehend the subordinate nature of the thinking faculty, must be content to wait upon the process of growth. In the deeper regions of experience such a problem has no place. Intellectual speculation melts into a true understanding, and in the figurative language which alone can be helpful, life is seen to be a pilgrimage in which the falsehoods and make-believes of prosaic daily life fall away and the strangeness of an unsuspected situation more and more reveals itself. The position might be dealt with by the use of precise scientific terms, but though the ears of the learned would thereby be pleasantly tickled, the approach to the untellable would be no nearer. Logical thought cannot function in the seedbed of the unconscious in which it has its roots and from which it derives nourishment.
In this connexion we must disabuse our minds of the very prevalent arrogance which assumes that because we have invented the steam engine and the telephone we are in a better position to consider a problem of this nature than were the ancients. Such an idea is crude and childish. If comparisons between different periods of the time-process had anything more than a superficial value we might draw an exactly opposite conclusion. Our preoccupation with material forces has withdrawn our energies from the proper study of mankind-which is man himself. The scientific study of natural forces though it extends the activities of mankind does not deepen his experience. It leads him into a maze of insoluble problems but it can never put the clue Of right living into his hands, nor reveal to him the value of wisdom. No greater disaster can happen to any civilization than when it sets a higher value on the study of science than on the pursuit of wisdom. And if that statement be a truism it is undoubtedly a luminous one for our age.
The stoic philosophy, of which Marcus Aurelius was the great exponent, drew a clear distinction between the boundaries of necessity and the marches of freedom. Fate (Clotho) stood for the hard, deterministic framework of things which all must obey and only the fool defies. Destiny fulfilled an altogether different role. The longer talking beast lives and the deeper his investigation of the processes of consciousness, the more evident it becomes that life is guided only partially by the forces we rate as physical and invariable. When those forces have been obeyed and put into service, another order of influences discovers itself. Instead of fate we have to deal with destiny.
The position of the adult, very much though not entirely at the mercy of fate, and his position when some degree of maturity has been attained, may be roughly illustrated by a comparison between a car and an aeroplane. In the adult state man is controlled materially as is the track of a racing car, which has to depend on banking. At higher levels, as in the air, the banking has to be done by the agent himself. Self, even when it has attained to complete manhood has to submit to banking on the earth but must bank for itself when moving on higher levels.
For the modern, the important point to bear in mind is that freedom and its attainment, have very little to do with the logical, thinking mind. It depends on talking beast's efforts to move forward from the adult to the mature condition. His need to think logically is far less imperative than his need to live wisely. The thinking mind which should be an instrument of Self is too often used as an instrument of ego. The adult expression of personality and ego, has no conception of the beauty and the harmony of the promised land of freedom into which no feverish striving can lead him. For union with the real is not attained by striving but by humility, the first and last necessity, and by a frequent withdrawal from the market place: a statement which does not refer to any material forum. Noise is not in the market place nor quietness among the hills.
To satisfy the fantasy which adult man weaves about him, civilization would need to be static. It Would have to move from decade to decade without change or disintegration. And since the feeble-minded it end to the belief that all good and all evil are in the hands of governments to dispense, adult man would first have ccrtain acts of parliament introduced which would make life easier for himself and his class. Adult man believes that government can not only prevent the wicked man from being too wicked but that it can prevent wages from shrinking like ice-cream in the sun, and goods in the shops from soaring to prohibitive prices. Government, he supposes, can control moral and economic law and can, by passing the right enactments, provide work for everyone and the wage which each regards as "just." Naturally, holding such views, adult man takes an excited interest in politics, tending usually to the adoption of extreme views, heedless of the fact that extreme views are always false and usually harmful. Vague but attractive generalities flutter like beautiful butterflies just in front of his nose: Justice, Equality, Freedom, Progress, Reconstruction. He has heard someone say, somewhere that if only the millions a day poured out in time of war were poured out equally freely into the right channels in time of peace, we should speedily get rid of poverty, slums, dirt, disease, ignorance, vice and all the sufferings of the underdog. Feeble-mindedness is ready to accept almost any fantasy that stirs its emotions pleasantly by appeals to its ego-centricity. It is impatient of waiting. It wants the goods now, and so long as they have the right labels, is ready to take the contents at face value.
The poor animal in the adult talkative stage is not without virtues, but his stupidity almost completely nullifies them. He lives by catchwords because he has neither the capacity nor the inclination to find out the truth of things for himself. He is not concerned with truth. He is concerned with getting what he wants, like the beasts who have not acquired the faculty of talking. And every now and again Fate hits him a shrewd blow; now a clout over the head, now a kick from behind, until even indefatigable ego grows tired. And in the weariness of ego it is possible that the still, small voice of Self may be heard.
"Look within," wrote Marcus Aurelius, "lest you miss exact knowledge of things." (Meditations, vi, 3.) Such a warning must appear strange to modern ears. We of to-day are under the illusion that an exact knowledge of affairs can only be obtained by losing ourselves in the hurly-burly of activity which makes up modem living. The fallacy is pathetic in its results. Homo vulgaris imagines that to consciously relax or to look within is tantamount to the sin of idleness or the encouragement of morbidity; something to be left to those body-snatchers of the spirit, the psycho-analysts. The result is that he runs away from himself, in a great hurry not to look at what is inside him. The inevitable consequence follows. He has less and less of an exac t knowledge of the world; refuses to call things by their right names, and ends by creating a fantasy world of his own somewhat akin to that of the lunatic in an institution. In another passage of the Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote: "Search within. The spring of good is within, capable of continually gushing forth if you will always dig down." (Meditations, vii, 59.) It would appear, therefore, that in the experience of the great Stoic philosopher, an exact knowledge of affairs depends, not on a strenuous application of the reasoning faculty or on the ceaseless outward activity of the thinking mind, but rather on a withdrawal from the world without to the world within. In his philosophy, constructive quiescence is of greater practical value than even the most devoted altruistic activity.
At this point it occurs to me that I have made a serious mistake. I ought not to have referred to the "inner life" at all. The phrase must appear cold and chilly to man in the business age. It must appear about as cheerful and encouraging to him as one of those stone tombs with recumbent knights on top, in the silence of our beautiful deserted cathedrals. But I could find no suitable paraphrase. Possibly the Americans, who have modernized the Book of Wisdom into the Book of Wisecracks, may have such a phrase, but if so, I have not learnt it. All I can do now to make amends for this foolish blunder is to assure talking beast that there is nothing remote or queer or strange or morbid or mysterious about the constructive quiescence known to our forefathers as the inner life. Its cultivation results in a more receptive attitude towards the unconscious. We cannot, any of us, escape from the unconscious any more than we can escape from our skins. Every time we do a simple sum in arithmetic, such as 7 x 8 = 56, we are dropping a question into our unconscious mind and waiting for the answer. The answer was registered there long ago when as children we learnt our multiplication tables. But what actually goes on in the unconscious mind nobody can say, for no one can see himself thinking. The mathematician, the engine driver, the carpenter, all alike depend every moment on this process of waiting on what is in the unconscious to come into consciousness. We shall therefore do well to get rid of the prejudice that the inner life is concerned only with nunneries and prayer books and stuffy lives of the saints. It is a very practical matter, and the more we get to know about it the better for us. It is through Self, the agent of our unconscious mind, that all our best and highest impulses come.
Therefore we must guard our inner life as a dragon guards a treasure; we must see to it that no intrusions of the world hamper the activity of Self. Outward activity and the pressure of duties to be done will not excuse us for neglect of our inner life. The fool is driven by events, the wise man seeks to control them. He will not always be successful, but something will be attained by an honest effort to avoid the futile chatter of the market place. The greatest fee he will be called upon to meet in this connexion is impatience: impatience with himself and impatience with others. Impatience more than anything else spoils receptivity of the still, small voice of Self. Unless there be a fair measure of tranquillity in the life, a fair measure of freedom from mental and emotional disturbance, the higher guidance cannot operate.
The mind that rushes through books at top speed is the gregarious mind; the mind that cannot endure to be alone. But in any attempt to deliberately cultivate the inner life, loneliness will have, sooner or later, to be encountered. It is the dragon which guards the treasure.
But the treasure is great and its value is not only for time but for the condition beyond time in which Self has its being. Peace, harmony, courage and goodwill are not inconsiderable trifles. For the attainment of such gifts and graces it is worth while doing battle with the Dragon, Loneliness.
If all human beings consisted solely of personalities and egos there would be no possibility of any inner life beyond the vague inattention of day-dreaming. The purposeless dance of ceaseless activity expressed in so many zones of human life would fill the whole of man's existence, rounded off by the sleep of utter fatigue. But the presence of Self, known or unknown, accepted or denied, is a continual rebuke to such living. It flings out a challenge to futility and by bringing peevishness, boredom or ill-health to the individual, awakens it to some dim perception of the true position. Self never remains for long a silent or inactive witness. It makes its presence known either by the sorrow and suffering we attribute to' Fate or by the gentler guidance to which more sensitive souls can respond. Self speaks in a variety of voices, but its purpose is ever the same.. Personality and ego may be as assertive and refractory as they will, but Self is master. His patience is inexhaustible, for he is not concerned only with space-time consciousness. His defeat is an impossibility.
The need to face up to loneliness has been stated or emphasized in other connexions. It is necessary to return to it if we would assess the claims of society on the individual life. The term "hermit" has always and rightly been tainted with reproach. The human animal, it is felt, should not quit the herd in order to live unto himself alone. Too many hermits have been escapists and nothing more: just as too many pacifists have been escapists and nothing more. But it is essential to dear thinking that we should avoid generalization. Every problem should be considered on its own merits: There were never two hermits exactly alike. Whether St. Simeon Stylites was justified in spending his days on the top of a draughty pillar devoid of sanitation I cannot say. Even had I met this particular hermit the problem would have remained equally insoluble. As regards sainthood, we should judge by results and not by appearances or protestations. There have always been as many rogues and as many fools among the saints as anywhere else in society. But this fact does not exonerate us from the urgent need of seeking guidance. Better follow the wrong guide and fall into a ditch than live in a comfortable villa with modern conveniences in the dead atmosphere of surburbia or in a flat amid the smart futilities; of Mayfair. The fact that millions five in some such dead and meaningless routine gives no sanction to such living. In the kingdom of the real, which has also been called the kingdom of heaven, numbers have no significance. Thus we come to understand that in addition to the acquisitive inertness of ego and the bright plausibility of personality, the great foe to the inner life is the continually threatened inroad of society. If society were composed solely of Selves the position would be different. But obviously this is not the case. Society is composed of talking beasts, mostly in the crude, adult, feeble-minded condition. We. have at all times to remember, therefore, that in all our human relationships we are almost certain to be dealing with people in the adult stage–and the beast nearest to us will be ourself. But since the last illusion mankind refuses to give up is his belief in its own refinement and maturity, we can hardly hope to be aware of the position. In our relations with the untalking animals, we are under fewer illusions. We know their ways and can count with some certainty on their reactions. The dog must be trained, taken for walks, domesticated. We know quite definitely what the canine reactions to circumstance will be. The cat, ancient symbol of relaxation or of inertia, must be allowed a comfortable chair near the fire and must be sheltered from the violent caresses of the. little beasts who are learning to talk. If we have known one cat, we have known all. But other personalities are innumerable in their subtle and infinite variety. For personality is a mask to conceal not one secret but a million: some held consciously, some unconsciously. And the more we are under the illusion that personality is a real entity, a being created to live for one lifetime on earth or for an eternity of living, the greater and more confusing will our perplexities become. The key to our bewilderment can only be found in the knowledge that personality is no more than a spacetime nucleus of faculties, hereditary, environmental and atavistic, which can have no enduring existence, no permanent value. Until we have learnt and know beyond all preadventure that humans are linked with all other orders of animals in the synthesis of being; that they are inevitably ignorant, complacent, often hostile, frequently centres of irritable disturbance, seeking sometimes to dominate by force of will, sometimes to Placate by friendly smiles devoid of true goodwill; until we realize this and cheerfully accept the situation, we shall be at a continual disadvantage in society. For society is always trying to have its way with us; to lure us into that meaningless vortex of surface activity in which it whirls; to force us to subscribe to all its hypocrisies and to bow to all its false ideals. Yet we may not dissociate ourselves from society. It is the space-time arena in which Self must find a means of executing its trusteeship towards others, respecting always their freedom and therefore ready always to withdraw and seek an outlet for its activities elsewhere. But society must never be allowed to deflect Self from its course; for Self has nothing to learn from society though society has a great deal, to learn from Self.
To the modern mind, however, accustomed to ideas which have crept into daily speech from the vocabulary of psychology, the attitude of mind called waiting, or acceptance, best describes the core ' of the inner life. As has been pointed out frequently before in these pages, we live by unconscious processes. Our tenuous consciousness looks for and receives authoritative guidance from sources of which it is unconscious until the message is received in consciousness. The process is the same whatever the subject may be, whether logical movement, moral command, stored up facts and principles, simple mathematics or spiritual direction. When once the question has been set in tenuous consciousness, however sharply, however dimly, however reluctantly, the new perception arrives only after patient waiting.
Our forefathers were much concerned with the idea of inspiration. They held that certain scriptures were inspired and others not. Knowing nothing about the manner in which consciousness works, mistakes and confusions were inevitable. They did not understand that all writing is derived from the unconscious mind, Cobbet, when asked how he wrote, replied that he wrote at the point of his pen. He never knew, he explained, exactly what he was going to say until his pen moved over the paper. It came into consciousness and he set it down. All that any writer can do, so far as his conscious mind is concerned, is to think about the subject with which he is to deal. When it comes to the actual setting down of words on paper, he can only wait on the ideas hidden in the darkness of the unconscious mind. Inspiration is simply the old word for this waiting on the unconscious. Naturally the matter received varies very considerably in moral and spiritual value according as it is received by a talking beast in the crude, adult stage or by one who is more mature, or by that transcendent being who has attained complete manhood and is no longer an unfinished animal awaiting development at the hands of his creator. The "inspired" scriptures derived from a Jesus, a Buddha or a Marcus Aurelius have in them the pure essence of Self universal undiluted by the alloy of ego and personality. But they were all received by precisely the same means as that by which a child receives the information that two added to two make four. There is no mystery in the reception of even the highest degree of inspired wisdom. Neither does it come haphazard. In the adult state the writer can produce fiction of absorbing interest and high artistic value, but he cannot write above. the level of his own consciousness. The law in this matter is fixed and unalterable.
If anyone nourishes the illusion that the, inner life or life of waiting on unconscious processes is a vague, unpractical abstraction, his thinking must be crude indeed. Nor ran waiting be regarded as an additional ornament to a conventional prosaic life. The orthodox religious certainly have not a monopoly of it. From moment to moment we all live by it and cannot live by any other means. Even the most frivolous piece of modern fluff cannot exist without an inner life. To powder its shiny nose at the right moment cannot be done without assistance from the inner life of the unconscious. Consciousness can effect nothing beyond the arrangement of unconscious material.
We can never escape from our accompanying unconscious in life or in death. It is highly necessary therefore that we should seek to understand the position and to make friends with the unconscious in all its reaches. Self, the agent of the unconscious, the unknown directing force of our life, is always with us. "If I go up into heaven thou art there, and if I go down into hell thou art there also."
Owing to the directive agency of Self the inner life is full of promise and is the only means by which our true advancement can be attained. In the adult stage we question whether the human race ever really improves. Men, we aver, are as wicked and cruel to-day as in the days of Nero. Such a comparison is wholly misleading. To consider such a short span is equivalent to arguing that a man never grows older because no change can be detected in him when only the morning and the evening of a single day are taken into account. But if you compare the adult of to-day with adult of a far distant geological era, you will be sensible of an enormous difference If you doubt my statement go to the Zoo and have a look at the anthropoid apes.
Looking at that monkey, so like and yet so different from ourselves, and having regard to our own unfinished state, we have to accept the fact that the, creator is still creating and that this work of creation takes place through the agency of Self. In considering the inner life or life in which we wait upon the unconscious, we come to a very practical conclusion. In the language of slang, we come down to brass tacks.
The adult suffers continually from a lack of power, a lack of certainty, a lack of authority. For the most part he feels himself to be helpless as a straw in an eddy of swirling water. If to-night he regards himself as a good fellow, in, the morning he is ready to admit that he is a miserable sinner. He lacks direction, he lacks confidence, he lacks the growing enlightenment of wisdom. His natural forces are dissipated in the struggle to exist; in efforts to amuse himself during cessations of that struggle; or in the usually vain task. of attempting to help others who appear in even worse case than himself. Even his efforts to enjoy himself are rendered abortive because he puts his whole trust in the thin, tenuous consciousness which is concerned only with the surface of things. And yet the source of all power and all endurance and all understanding is near at hand if he would make the effort to adjust himself to his true position. Power to live a deeper, fuller, more effective life; enlightenment concerning those fundamental problems which confuse and daunt him; authority which can exercise the leadership of Self but not of ego; all these may be his if he will deliberately turn the forces of his inner life into constructive channels. The high-powered, internal combustion engine of to-day runs smoothly and efficiently because all its parts, simplified and modified by experiment, are directed to one single end. By careful lubrication, friction is reduced to a minimum. So should the inner life of those who are no longer feeble-minded become. They should know at what they are aiming and bend all their efforts to its attainment.
SCIENCE: FRIEND OF SELF OR INSTRUMENT OF EGO
Science (which is the modern term for knowledge) comprises the sum of all that human beings have discovered by means of their sense perceptions. Not even the most profound study of science can ever bring satisfaction to an ardent spirit seeking enlightenment as to the purpose of life, or a better understanding of his own being. Science, as understood to-day, is confined exclusively to the world of material appearance. What the eye does not see, the ear hear, or the other senses give knowledge of, does not exist for the purpose of science. If investigation seeks to press forward into any deeper sphere, then it quits the region of science and enters the land of speculation. The nineteenth century scientists found so much to occupy them in the study of sense-perceived matter that they had, little inclination for speculation. They regarded the reasoning mind as the complete mental apparatus and had no perception of the unconscious process breaking in to upset or modify their investigations. Space and time they regarded as definite, fixed entities, and eternity as a sort of fixation of time, a fiction created by poetry and religion. Their growing preoccupation, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with machinery and the laws of mechanics led them to investigate the universe as though it were a vast machine.
The most modern scientific thought is inclining to the theory that time and space have no independent existence but are a creation of consciousness, the two ideas being interdependent. Thus from birth we grow into conceptions of passing time and limiting space; conceptions which are without fundamental reality and are no more closely related to the truth of things than is human speech.
The mechanistic theory of the universe has proved wholly inadequate. The universe can no longer be regarded by intelligent thinkers as a machine. No machine has consciousness; no machine can beget other machines as animal forms beget animal forms. There is only the most superficial resemblance between a locomotive and an elephant, between an armoured tank and a tortoise. The likeness is on the surface; the dissimilarity is fundamental. When Mary Shelley wrote her famous novel, "Frankenstein," she revealed herself to be a true child of her age. No writer of modern scientific fiction could appeal to the intelligent reader of to-day by such a crude venture into the regions of speculative science. The phenomena presented to. us under the aspects of time and space are no longer regarded as parts of a complicated machine but rather as a thought in some all-creative mind. , Thus Sir James Jeans quotes Bishop Berkely in this connexion: "All the choir of heaven and furniture of earth, in a word all those bodies which, compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any substance without the mind. . . .So long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind, or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit." And Sir James's comment on the passage is as follows: "Modern science seems to me to lead by a very different road, to a not altogether dissimilar conclusion. . . .It does not matter whether objects 'exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit' or not; their objectivity arises from their subsisting 'in the Mind of some Eternal Spirit.' "
If these reflections should lead any reader to suspect that the present writer is inclined to belittle the findings or the achievements of scientific research, he is greatly mistaken. Between birth and death we are destined to live in a world controlled by the all-compelling fiction of time-space. From that fiction we can never for a moment escape so long as we are clothed in a garment of flesh. Therefore it is no less our duty than our privilege to learn as much as we can, on the level of consciousness, about the construction of consciousness which forms the stage on which we and, others play our parts. To vary the metaphor, the workman must have a practical acquaintance with his tools if his activity is to be effective. The tool nearest to consciousness is the body; our own body. The more we know about ibis body and the more obedient we make it to the higher aspirations, conscious and unconscious, the more actively creative will our lives become.
The danger confronting us as regards scientific investigation and development, is the old menace of laisser-faire and of effort vitiated by, if not prompted directly by, egoism. These tendencies have almost wrecked modern civilization. Science and its products can be put to many uses; they can only be put to one legitimate and wholesome use. if science is not deliberately made the handmaid of Self, it will inevitably degenerate into becoming the abject slave of ego.
Scientists are for the most part, it may be objected, men of noble mind and high purpose. That is true. But the discoveries they bring to birth very speedily pass out of their hands. The machines they construct almost immediately become articles of exchange–"goods" to be bartered in the market place. The scientist in his laboratory, no less than the engineer in his workshop, is inspired to pursue his researches by the desire for fulfilment and perfection. It is far otherwise with the dealers who sell his devices to the highest. bidder. Machines whose skilful design and execution only the' expert mechanician can appreciate, become the toys of a thoughtless multitude or the destructive tools with which the most debased and unscrupulous talking beasts wage aggressive war. The menace is not from the scientist who invents or the physicist who investigates but from the vast multitude of greedy, thoughtless traffickers in the adult condition of feeble-mindedness. They are like pigs that rush to the trough directly the swill is poured in, struggling and squealing, in frantic efforts to push away the others. This is but a crude analogy of what is always going on in the modern state. But the civilization of to-day is so complicated that it is difficult to detect the motive behind the act. Very few things are called by their right names (i.e., for. "religion" we should usually read "fanaticism" or "convention": for "kindness" we should often read "self-indulgence" or "self-pity" : for "friendship" we should often read "self-interest" or "gregariousness"); and thus it happens that the weak, the unintelligent and the vicious are easily misled. Even commerce and money-making suffer from the obstructive opposition of vested interests, and the way to new developments is barred. Many money-saving, health-saving or time-saving devices would have come into being were it not for the dead weight of commercial interests which have blocked the way. An interesting book might be written about inventions and discoveries that have been nipped in the bud by wealthy manufacturers ready to pay any I price to buy up patent rights rather than lose their market. Who has not heard of the electric lamp in which the filament would last a hundred times longer than any now in use; of the match that could be struck and used over and over again; of the gramophone record that could be run at a far lower speed than those now on the market; of a face-cream. that would remove hair on the skin and render shaving unnecessary, thus throwing hundreds of barbers out of work? Some of these tales are inventions, some exaggerations, but some are true. The greed of the manufacturer is not likely to be modified by any care for scientific development or social amelioration. His eye is fixed on one mark and on one mark only; big business and the wiping out of all rivals. And if you told him that the inventions and discoveries of scientists ought not to be prostituted to greed and gain, he would laugh in your face. For of all tough talking beasts the manufacturing beast is among the toughest and stupidest.
Thinkers of the nineteenth century fell into the curious error of believing that scientific discovery must be a benefit and lead to nothing but good results. The multiplication of machines, they argued, must lead to' better conditions all round. Only the multitudinous toilers who found themselves without work, had doubts of the promised millennium. In blind anger they smashed many of the machines. But there is no setting the clock to go backward in this time-space world. The tempo increased. Time was saved; space contracted; the few grew wealthy; the conditions of the many improved. And yet, despite the amazing changes, nobody appeared much happier; the age-old problems still remained unsolved. The fact that one could travel from London to New York in a week instead of in five or six weeks brought many, advantages. It did nothing to alter the fundamental facts of the human lot. Men still knew sorrow, suffering and despair. For a brief period,, the age of science eluded itself into the belief that it was approaching Utopia. Then came war; war which science had so thoroughly equipped that it could no longer be kept at a respectful distance from the women, the children, the old and the sick; war that dropped high, explosives from the sky and sent forth armoured landships that only the biggest guns could disable. And with the coming of these scientific developments mankind began to realize with a terrible sinking of heart, that he still belongs, not to an order that is far in advance of the animal creation, but that he is himself no more than an animal although he has acquired the faculty of speech and the untrustworthy guidance of reason. His passions, he finds, arc still the passions of the jungle; his fears, the burrowing timidities of the rabbit.
This would have been a depressing discovery indeed had there been no indication of further progress open to the beast that talks, but so evidently lacks finish. The creator, however, who is ever creating, does not hide himself in the backward mists of time, or in the contradictions of science; nor need he be sought only in the confused or fanatical voices of changing religious cults. Self speaks from the region of the unconscious, from a region where time and space are dreams, and where knowledge is no longer needed because experience can be known. Under the guidance of Self, slowly and with many set-backs, the work of creation has gone forward. The human form has been gradually improved; the branch-clutching forefeet have become the competent hands of the craftsman and the sensitive fingers of the artist and the surgeon. In obedience to the creative impulse talking beast has learnt to build cities and to equip himself with machines so that what is within him may be expressed in outward form.
In no civilization has mankind in the mass attained finality or finish. And therefore it would be ridiculous to suppose that the machines he has devised could bring him gain without loss, or happiness without sorrow. These gifted ones who talk and tor ape ancestors. They are still as clay in the hands of the potter or as dream-stuff haunting the consciousness of the writer or musician. But to make this statement is not equivalent to saying that no member of this tribe has yet attained completeness in the flesh. Those who have, in their journeys between birth and death, come into personal contact with such completeness, are not many. Yet there is no unfairness in this arrangement. Leadership is diffused throughout many levels. The sun does not shine equally brightly on all landscapes though it is absent from none. In every civilization, in every age, in every level of human society, the law operates that those who seek, humbly and with determination, shall find; that those who plant shall reap in due season. Spiritual gifts are not bestowed as the result of chance or favour. They are the fruit of patient work in the difficult fields of consciousness and conduct. Nor is historical testimony, in its broad aspect, without witness to the facts as stated. If any toiler, caught in the ceaseless stress of competitive struggle, clings to an obstinate doubt of what is here written, or seeks to belittle its importance, let him withdraw from the confusions and compulsions of life even for those brief moments of inactivity denied to none, and read the closing pages of the Phaedo of Plato. In this way he may put himself in touch by means of the written word with a member of his race who was no longer an unfinished animal but had attained complete manhood. My purpose in indicating Socrates rather than Jesus or Buddha or Confucius is to avoid religious preconception and ecclesiastical prejudice. The religions into which we are born and in which we are nurtured, no matter how true or how exalted, are inevitably mingled with much alloy of forceful personalities; nor do many of us find it easy to free ourselves from the many prejudices thus imbibed. Socrates founded no religion, Plato established no church. Yet in these illuminative teachings are enshrined the basic spiritual foundations of all true religion.
If we would see clear evidence of the process of creation at work it is well to give heed to the long span rather than to the short. Yet even in those brief flashes of time known as historical periods some slight creative development may be seen. Amid all the disturbances and confusions created by ego, the control of Self is never absent. We have only to compare the sixteenth century with the nineteenth in England to be sensible of a striking difference. The Age of Queen Victoria had its class pride, its domestic tyranny, its greed and its smug complaisance, but new impulses were breaking in from the unconscious which condemned calculated cruelty. Men and women were no longer disembowelled at Tyburn nor were even the worst criminals subjected to the thumb-screw and the rack. Parallel with this negative improvement a positive humanitarian influence was at work. The troubled consciences of men were urging them in the direction of humanitarian effort. Hospitals were established, factory acts passed and the net of education spread ever wider. Men and women were becoming more sensitive. They became aware of smells and put down drains; the discovery of anaesthetics shielded them from the hardening and demoralizing effects of physical pain. All these aspirations and their resultant activities were troublesome, costly, and irritating to deeplyrooted prejudice and ego-centric inertia. The wealthy and the privileged looked back regretfully to the "good old times" when the privileged few had everything and the unprivileged many had nothing. These humanitarian influences were not inspired by ego, which has been born in struggle and is kept alive by competition, nor by per. sonality, which is the space-time garment Self must needs assume, They were inspired by values wholly different from those which dominate us in space-time, nor did they have their origin in orthodox or unorthodox religion, for these humanitarian influences were found also among atheists and agnostics., They came from Self, whose abiding home is not time-space consciousness but the timeless state out of which this arose.
If we have strayed from our immediate consideration, which is science, it is only that we may gain a deeper perception of the issues involved. Owing to the hardness of man's heart, science has hitherto remained an indeterminate force, sometimes conferring a blessing, more often imposing a curse. But the time is at hand when the true position must become evident to many minds, and the fact realized that science is not an unmixed blessing conferred by the gods but rather a chameleon that takes the colour of the ground from which it springs. There is no inward necessity for it to operate as a blessing as certain thinkers of the nineteenth century imagined. Samuel Butler was so concerned with the curse imposed by scientific development that in his novel "Erewhon" he envisaged a civilization which heavily penalized any citizen who invented a machine. The people of "Erewhon" might keep their watches and clocks, but no further mechanical developments were allowed. They had no trains, no cars, no guns, no aeroplanes, and no telegraphs. Thus bravely did they keep the mechanized age at bay. It was a childish notion prompted by counsels of despair. Samuel Butler regarded mankind as so incorrigibly vile and stupid that it must not be allowed the use of any tool which can be widely abused. Such methods would accomplish little. For there is nothing in our world which cannot be abused We need stones to build houses, but you can kill your enemy with a stone. The argument takes us back speedily to the cave and the jungle; in other words, proves us to be talking beasts with no possibility of further development. If the child hurts itself and others by flinging its toys about, you may remove the toys, but it is wiser to make the attempt to train the child in better habits. The only true method of insuring that science shall be a blessing and not a curse, is to focus attention on the inward condition of man's heart. The hard blows of Fate have driven and are driving the lesson home. The sad illusion that scientific discovery and progress must confer a benefit is fast being shattered even for the unthinking multitude.
The adult suffered all through the nineteenth century from the illusion that salvation can spring from scientific investigation and discovery, or, if not salvation, at least improvement. Such exalted hopes are hardly surprising when stock is taken of the material progress made; drainage systems banishing plague and disease; anaesthetics and aseptic surgery reducing mortality in surgical operations by about ninety per cent.; legislation to prevent cruel and demoralizing treatment of others by others; the extension of educationIto include all members of the population. Such fruitful endeavours might well go to the head of civilized man. In the pride of his accomplishment it seemed good to him to cast off all the religious and philosophic systems of the past, or to tolerate them with kindly patronage. Even the best of these began to appear to him like a winter's tale told to beguile children. Science was based, not on untrustworthy human testimony, but on the weighed, measured and known. Science had done so much to bless; how could it ever do anything to curse? Even the most intellectually advanced of that time knew nothing of the working of the unconscious mind. It was accepted as an axiom that human beings lived by reason alone, by that small, clear, tenuous spot-light of consciousness which had thought out and developed the methods of analysis and deduction. It was never for a moment suspected that the fears apd lusts of the jungle were still buried in the unconscious mind, ready to spring to life like a fire that has been almost, but not quite, extinguished., Science was at times troubled. There were flies in the delectable ointment and these flies spoilt the panacea. Science could not get rid of crime; it could not persuade or compel infuriated talking beast not to murder that other whom he hated; nor could it persuade or compel the beast' to walk in the ways of intelligence or sobriety or prevent him from eating or drinking unwisely and then rushing to the nearest physician for a bottle of medicine.
When he began to reap the harvest of progress it was found to be a mixed crop. There was some golden corn, but there were many rank weeds that festered and stank. For one man, stirred by true ideals, who was eager to put the gifts and discoveries of science to a good use, there were hundreds who, in their feeble-mindedness, ignorance or baseness, were ready to force all scientific developments into the crude service of ego. War came (for as long as the mass of men are beasts they will fight as readily as they will talk) and aided by science, it rained destruction from the skies. War breeds disease and dirt; cruelty and tyranny; privation and want, and a blunting of the moral sense. Man began to understand that material science is only a modern presentation of the ancient myth of Tantalus, and the fable of the dog who dropped his bone into the water to snatch at its reflexion. Here was no curse and no blessing but just a tool in the hands of the thinking animal which he would use according as the good or evil principle was dominant in his heart.
Science in the nineteenth century was not concerned only with material progress and development. It looked with arrogant assurance into the realm of speculative thought. Its claim was so insistent and its, reach so daring that even organized religion grew alarmed. Thoughtful minds were poised uneasily on the tiptoe of expectation. Since the scientists believed that material causes were sufficient to account for all observed phenomena and all experience, it seemed likely that at any moment some astounding discovery might be made which would prove the Bible false and the agnostic thinkers right. Such a discovery might show that there was nothing but matter in the universe and that all ideas of God, spirit, heaven-and a hereafter had their origin in a deficiency of hormones or vitamins in the blood-stream. Naturally that great discovery was never made and the scientists fell to disputing, among themselves until their voices died away, drowned in the roar of a great tide of motor vehicles and aeroplanes. The old scientists passed away and a new generation of chemists, psysicists and mathematicians took their places; men of deeper vision, broader outlook and greater power of penetration. These men pushed their investigations into the constitution of matter so far that, as in Prospero!s magic, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces and the great globe itself passed away, leaving not a wrack behind save a small discharge of positive and negative electricity. Thus from a study of the outer world which had passed away, they were compelled to come back and consider the observer in place of the observed.
But here again was the old difficulty.
If you go on analysing the composition of blood and bones and flesh far enough and patiently enough, you come again to that small charge of positive and negative electricity. With the abandonment of this cul-de-sac the problem was found to be a problem of consciousness. Scientific research methods would not avail here. It was clearly imperative for the scientist to humble himself and go and sit at the feet of religion, or philosophy whose province is consciousness and experience. Plato began to come into favour again and Socrates' confession that he was the wisest of men because he knew that he knew nothing, seemed a true confession of faith; a confession humiliating to the clever and the self important, but exceedingly wholesome.
Scientists are beginning reluctantly to learn the lesson that not by the methods of research, of examination and deduction, can they get into touch with fundamental reality. Some would like to go further and dogmatically assert that no one, by any means or method, can ever get into touch with fundamental reality. They would thus limit man's knowledge from birth to death to a ' n acquaintance with shadows and appearances. Such assertions are based on the arrogance of egoism, not on the courage and humility of wisdom. It was obviously not by the methods employed by modern scientific research that Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bo Tree, or that Jesus healed the sick, or that Socrates was enabled to enlighten his disciples concerning spiritual things while he waited to drink the cup of poison.
By considerations such as these we must not be led astray into any disparagement of the methods or the use of science. But it is necessary to be alive to the ever-present need to turn the latent curse into a blessing. Only as the educated animal grows weary of the stimulus of tooth And claw, of the excitement of aggressive war, of the encounter of ego with ego which disrupts the harmony of domestic life, and of the proud display of personality, can the curse be mitigated and the blessing begin to operate. Science has done much to bless already; it has cleaned and rendered sanitary our cities; it has revealed to us the menace of insects and microbes; it has alleviated pain in a variety of ways; it has introduced new curative methods; it has rendered domestic life cleaner and easier; it has multiplied books and made the student's labours lighter. But always the menace is there, owing to man's hardness of heart and hatred of self-discipline. He wallows in a variety of little self-indulgences, giving them attractive names and persuading himself that they are of no consequence, happily oblivious of the accumulations of vicious or futile thoughts flung into consciousness from his unconscious mind. Thus it happens that all his efforts are tainted with the poison of egoism; all his endeavours are spoilt by the dirt of the market place, the office and the workshop. As a direct result of man's hardness of heart, his stubborn obstinacy and defiant selfishness, so subtle and so hard for him to become aware of, the blessing which science could and should confer, is turned into a curse.
There was a time when men would have denied that science and research could bring a curse. That time has passed. The confusion and unhappiness of the modern world; the devastation of war; the decay of hope and faith; the frivolous and futile uses to which many inventions like the gramophone, the cinema and even broadcasting with its ignoble propaganda and courting of gallery applause; the ignorance and lack of culture that so widely prevail despite an extended period of education conferred by the State; all these point one insistent moral. They show clearly enough that ego is everywhere predominant and that science has become the instrument of ego instead of being the handmaid of Self.
What then is required? It is not the purpose of this book to go into details as to what should be done. There are numbers of social and political workers ready enough to decide that. The intention here is to outline broad principles and to indicate the direction Self is likely to take if and when it becomes the guide and guardian of science.
Philosophy, in the Socratic sense, will certainly return and take its rightful place as the bedrock of culture and self-improvement. The deplorable dogmatic certainty and complaisance which the scientific spirit has bred so widely will give way to a more sane comprehension of the darkness amid which human consciousness functions. The intellectual buffoonery of bright Shavian spirits has served a useful purpose 'in destructive criticism. But pride of intellect lights no torch and warms no hearth. If you would understand what I am trying to convey, read "The Doctors' Dilemma" and then read "Phaedo" of Plato's. If there be any stirrings of maturity in you, you will feel that you have passed from converse with a gay old ghost to those higher levels of thought attained by a Master of men.
If any pious millionaire should be compelled for his sins to read this book, and reading, be so moved by its truth and singleness of purpose as to decide to bequeath all that he has to endow yet another chair of philosophy at one of our universities, let him reconsider his decision and desist. We have already an ample number of professorships of philosophy at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. These are not without their uses in the dissemination of culture. But one can hardly imagine a Socrates, a Plato, a Marcus Aurelius or any enlightened sage, advising an aspirant to wisdom to take a course at a university with a view to attaining first-class honours in moral I philosophy. The idea at once tickles our sense of the ridiculous. Scholar worldlings neither seek enlightenment nor do they have enlightenment thrust upon them. Professors of philosophy and psychology, like the Sophists of ancient Athens, have their uses, but seekers after wisdom do not go to them for the kind of help which Plato sought of Socrates, or Nicodemus of Jesus, or Ananda of Buddha, or Yen Hui of Confucious.
The nature of the philosophy upon which Self universal insists is not academic; it is not confined to any one level of human society; its rudiments come into the world with the individual, giving him or her a certain poise, a certain outlook, a certain receptivity, a certain resolute tenderness and determination not to hurt another. And if, as is here implied, the true philosopher is born, he has also to be made. He must deepen his philosophy by continuous and tireless searching. And this is not to say that he will neglect those dudes which his position in the world thrusts upon him. Far from it. But he will tackle them in a certain spirit and from a certain angle different from the ordinary man who is greatly entangled in his ego. The seeker after this kind of truth must be content to toil and suffer and encounter hardship without any of the impatience of self-pity. Neither will he always know what he should do or what he should think. There is no clear path; certainly no path that can be discerned by reason or the thinking consciousness. He is as one in a pathless forest who must use whatever wits and faculties he has to find a way out of the labyrinth. Distant voices from the past will direct him at times. But it is upon Self that he must rely. And the qualities he will most need are scrupulous honesty, sincerity, courage and the humility which is ready to fling away second-hand opinions in order that he may gain first-hand experience. For as he traverses this forest of time, he will be walking, not by the light of Any sun or moon born and functioning in our space-time world, but by the light which had its birth before time was and will continue to exist after time has. passed away.
Man will continue to devise and improve many inventions. He will, it may be, in some measure, bridge the dark chasm between life and death, sleeping and waking, using his own mind or some sensitive recording instrument for a subtler kind of wireless transmission. But the old duality of curses and blessings will still operate. Only as Self invades man's consciousness more and more, leading him forward into maturity, can science be transformed from a curse into a blessing. For Self insists that the deepest welfare of mankind must be put before all else. Nor must the approach be made on behalf of any party or of any clique. The interests of one section of society, whether at the top or at the bottom, must not be put before the interests of another. The true interests of mankind are simple, clearly discerned and not difficult of aittainment. But in pursuing these ends there must be no weakness or tender consideration for the clamorous voices of greed, inertia, ignorance and hatred. The voice of Self universal is easily discerned. It is gentle, reasonable and inspired by wise and moderate counsels. It never grows angry or excited or impatient or discouraged. It seeks to extend the marches of freedom and to bring to earth more and more of that harmony which it knows in another sphere. Ego with its thoughtless prostitution of the inventions of science, swiftly perishes. But Self knows neither beginning nor end.
IDEOLOGIES AND IDEALS
The English-speaking race, in its multiple blends and varieties, has a wholesome sense of humour and is greatly concerned with sport. It delights in hunting, racing-on the ground, in the sea, and in the air-and in the scoring of goals or runs by, projecting a ball into the place required by the rules of the game. It infuses a high seriousness into all these matters, yet a seriousness of which it is secretly a little ashamed. For at some solemn moment the irresponsible sense of humour is always liable to rush in. Ego is never quite happy in the presence of a sense of humour. When the novelist describes one talking beast cutting the throat of another he must not represent the murderer as laughing unless it be "sardonically." When high financial transactions are in progress or when opposing parties in the State rally about their respective flags, though much nonsense may be talked, the faces of the speakers must wear a stony seriousness. Even the Anglo-Saxon sense of humour, which is essentially kindly, is stirred most readily by observation of others. A man with a funny face or a woman unconsciously trailing a yard of garter behind her may stir our mirth. But if the face or the garter be our own the laughter (if any) will be farless spontaneous. For the sense of humour to be truly tonic and entirely wholesome it must be directed mainly at oneself. Gregariousness, despite superficial appearances to the contrary, is one of the worst foes to this cleansing explosion we know as laughter., When men or women crowd together in masses or are drilled into battalions, the sense of humour, which is an Individual asset, tends to become somewhat acid or obscene. Few are strong enough to be able to laugh with real enjoyment at their own stresses and acute discomfitures. When one's clothes are alive with vermin and one's tea is flavoured with meat juice and onions, only Pantagruel himself could laugh heartily and without bitterness.
If a true understanding of Self, as the profoundest philosophers have always known it to be, were more widely held, that grim seriousness which springs from obsession by ego and all its works, would be enormously eased. Who has not experienced delight when, at some political meeting, an entirely earnest windbag of Platformism has been reduced from importance to impotence by some pertinent and lively jibe flung at him by an irresponsible heckler? Ego can never allow itself to laugh heartily for it has its dignity to maintain. Self, being open to perceptions of a world beyond dignity and indignity, does not care.
Our politics have always been slightly different from the politics of other nations owing to our favoured geographical position and to our perception of the funny side of things. In foreign countries they shoot hecklers before they have a chance of heckling. We encourage them for they prevent the pompous from becoming unbearable and the solemn from becoming bores. ' Thus in England and America, though we have a good crop of -ologies, we have always avoided falling under the spell of a sacrosanct Ideology. For in the kingdom of ideologies humour is the forbidden sin. If a Fascist or a Nazi or a Socialist has even the rudiments of a sense of humour, he is suspect.
The reason is that all ideologies are based on that high and unrelenting seriousness which dare not permit a ray of humour to break through. They bind men together therefore by the power of ego knowing well that no eccentricity has power to blind like egocentricity. To be an ideologist you must be that earnest kind of fellow who can be stuffed full of enthusiasms for some abstract doctrine spun around the idea of an abstract State or Race or Proletariate. The fact that, all such doctrines must always be more or less unrelated to the requirements of life in spacetime does not become apparent to the masses until they have paid the price of ignorance in floods of blood and tears.
Homo vulgaris is popularly supposed to be able to see the truth and to speak the truth quite easily. This idea is exactly contrary to the fact. It is extremely difficult for him to get at the truth of even the simplest matters of fact concerning himself or others. Even people who have a little outgrown the feeble-minded adult condition and are beginning to mature, have only the most superficial acquaintance with their own personalities and are not aware of how much and how constantly they are swayed by ego. Many of the human species are entirely insensitive to the claims of truth. And since indifference to truth produces the habit of mind which cannot perceive the truth even when it is known, it easily, becomes the victim of propaganda of the silly and of the malevolent kind. The great leaders of the race had no need of propaganda. They never sought to be known by the multitude nor to sway the opinions of vast masses of the talking species. They were in contact with a few, and their powerful suggestions were accepted as auto-suggestions by those few. The teaching of such leaders was based on the highest truths which mankind can receive and assimilate. The so-called leaders who work by mass suggestion, and thereby force the acceptance of an ideology, have to rely on a direct appeal to the ego which is a prey to many fears. The greatest fear that can assail it, is that it shall lose its physical life. The Dictator or Demagogue preys on the fears of those he would subdue, knowing full well that his greatest foe is Self, that luminously self-evident being who can afford to disregard the material terrors of time-space. The idea of dictatorship is perhaps the most dangerous which belief in personality as an ultimate value can produce. It grants off-hand the worthlessness of individual capacity and testimony but pretends that among individuals there are a few personalities able to proceed as if individual disabilities did not exist. This superstition is founded deeply in human nature, and will probably produce as much misery as all other superstitions have caused throughout history.
The appeal to ego among masses of people is always easy. They have brought with them from the anthropological past many fears which can be readily stirred to activity. The animal instincts which civilized life has thrust into the unconscious but not sublimated, Are everywhere alive. Most of us are afraid to face the fact of the essential vileness of humanity. The average citizen moves in a small circle of acquaintances and, feels it his duty to "make the best" of the people with whom he lives or among whom he works. He has a vaguely defined feeling that though he is not a professedly religious person yet there is a sort of religious common denominator which requires everyone to pretend that all his relations are estimable people and that his boss is a good fellow, though many of those relations are far below the low average of talking beastliness and the boss is beyond all doubt a self-indulgent nigger-driver. Such false valuations made to safeguard our own self-esteem or as pious incense laid on he family altar, are undesirable. "Truth," said Emerson, is handsomer than the affectation of love."
An investigation by an impartial witness into the conditions of domestic life to-day would reveal An appaling condition of moral and spiritual depravity. The amount of make-believe in family life is far greater than it need be. When simple honesty and sincerity are applied to domestic difficulties they tend at once to decrease in their capacity to irritate and so to prevent growth and development. Family life of some sort cannot be escaped. It is part of the hard framework of existence into which we are born with no consent of our own. We do not choose our parents nor our children. This fact however does not project an element of chance into the matter. Our appearance on the scene is determined by the action of the play in earlier scenes. But one duty is paramount upon us, that we shall not exercise any power, economic or moral, we may have, for the domination of others. We must not force our son into a career for which he is unfitted or compel our daughter to live with us under a pretence of love which is really self-interest. If we do these things the law of cause and effect which the easterns call karma will certainly exact payment and penalty. But for truth and courage and sincerity and gentleness the reward will no less be forthcoming.
It is good and wholesome to face facts no matter how unpleasant. Nor need we derive counsels of despair from such contemplation of human frailty and depravity. We have to bear in mind that these. humans, among whom we have to live for a time, and whom we have at least to tolerate, if no more helpful attitude be possible, are destined in the far-distant future to surpass the lack of finish which renders their society so unpalatable, and to attain the status of , finished and complete manhood. These others, with their greed, their 'ignorance of ultimate values, their irritability, their restlessness, their inertia, their eagerness to control and dominate, their deplorable self-pity, their pretensions to a discernment they do not possess, are the personalities and egos which Self is required to use in space-time conditions in order to gain the experience it needs in the work of creation. And the nearest personality and ego are always our own. If (to go to the novelists for an example) we hate Mr. Uriah Heep, it should help us to calm our outraged feelings if we remember that the process of becoming is slow and at the mercy of many vicissitudes. Socrates himself, in the long period of his becoming, must have been, at a certain stage, quite as repulsive to those on a slightly higher level, as Uriah Heep. Even the highest wisdom has its roots in the far past, and the wisdom and penetration which now shine from this celestial face were once shrouded in savagery or the stupid assurance of ignorance.
To return to our sheep: those ideologies and their close relationship to ego. It may perhaps-be added to the credit side of our account that we British and Americans have, so far, kept ourselves clean from the infection. But we must not jump to the conclusion that Democracy is an. ideal system wholly inspired by wisdom. It would appear rather that concern for ego is the essence of democracy. All our legislation and social services, especially our efforts for education, are directed to equip every ego with the means of asserting itself. All our institutions are framed with the purpose of allowing or assisting all egos to assert themselves in their working. Modern democracy is based on the conception of the ego and its companions as absolute values. Here we may discern its excellence and its failings. It is excellent up to the point of giving all egos equal opportunities for asserting themselves. It fails, and that so badly as to reduce some observers to despair, by its blindness to the relativity of the ego, and its ignorance of anything beyond the urge of the moment. Modem democracy, therefore, is always trembling on the verge of self-destruction. But the position is not so hopeless as it seems. Were a Socrates to come to London and have a talk with some of our public men, he might do much in convincing the less stubborn of their ignorance. But his career would be short and he would not be given even an O.B.E. The case, however, is not really hopeless because the services in support of the ego are sound in themselves. All they need is to be administered in the spirit that an enlightened conception of Self necessarily produces.
When a dictator seizes control of a State he must immediately assume the prerogative of murder. Only by so' doing can he bend the will of others to obey his orders. There will always be a few others who refuse to worship at' his shrine, and he cannot afford ' to leave these hostile few in his rear. But murder, no matter whether perpetrated in hot blood by a jealous husband or in cold blood by the decree of a Duce, is an act that can never be reconciled with the freedom allowed to others upon which Self insists as a vital 'part of its trusteeship. In a world where all things can be moved, life is the only thing which can be removed from the earthly scene. To remove life is to interfere with the fixed and determined framework into which we are all born. Self's trusteeship for others cannot permit such an usurpation of authority. The effect on the State of such usurpation is deplorable. Society's dim peception of the inward constitution of man becomes more and more obscured until a condition of slavery prevails. Egos live in constant dread of other egos, for torture and death which continually threaten, seem to them the final misery and degradation. They are forced into the anomalous position of craving to be allowed to live in conditions where life is misery, for Self is forbidden to exercise its trusteeship and is commanded to deny the truth by which alone it can live.
The dangers which are always threatening democracy spring from its eagerness to talk about ideals and its unwillingness to allow them to disturb its comfortable habits of customary, conventional thinking. It has a great deal to say about making everybody industrious ("a nation of workers") and virtuous, but it has a curiously blind spot which prevents it from seeing its own ego. It would like to enable everyone, especially those of its own class, to have the best of everything, food, drink, education, and religion. Above all, it cherishes the ambition of providing absolute equality for all, so that nobody shall be compelled to work five minutes longer than anyone else, or rise an hour earlier. While striving to further such "ideals" it is continually getting into difficulties because the medium in which it is doomed to work is fluid and continually changing. Though to the feeble-minded the world seems firm and constant enough, this constancy and continuity are mere illusions. Everything is in process of slipping and sliding into something else. Food goes bad; this moment's serenity is suddenly broken by next moment's irritability. You may enact that every child in every school shall receive half a pint of milk at eleven a.m. every day except Sunday. But if a thunderstorm develops, a quantity of the milk will go sour and so a number of the children will be poorer than ,the others by half a pint of milk. This is a simple illustration of the natural law of inequality so distressing to the more fanatical type of socialist. Undoubtedly injustices must be got rid of as far as possible, and the greed which refuses to admit their existence lest it be asked to reduce the number of its superfluities, must be discouraged. But since absolute equality of opportunity or of material means can never be attained, it is wiser to concentrate on humanizing the ego and personality with a view to cheerful acceptance of the best conditions practically attainable, rather than to try and force conditions into an arbitrary shape which may fit some but will not suit all. In other words, it is a thousand times better to be guided by Self in the tackling of such problems than to be guided by ego. And if such counsels appear vague or savouring of weakness to the adult mind, all allowances must be made. The adult mind is swayed mainly by ego and cannot be expected to see the wider vision opened by the clear perceptions of Self. If the world could be benefited by the imposition of an ideology, or any -scheme of socialism, such conditions would have been envisaged by the world leaders. But they left all such schemes alone and concentrated entirely on moral and spiritual values. They offered no enlightenment by any path save that of the individual's search for reality.
Murder, which as we have seen, is the cornerstone of dictatorship, has its counterpart in the violent intolerances. of democracy. The desire that all shall be alike is based on the hatred of difference; difference of means, difference of education, difference of creed, difference of class. This dislike is purely animal in its origin. The man of the people who despises dukes is simply giving vent to his innate jealousy and greed. Such a man is blind to his own inward condition, his enslavement to ego. Were he able to admit into his consciousness a slight degree of enlightenment he would at once become aware of his need for a subtler power of discernment. Self has a far more penetrating vision than ego and looks beneath the trappings of the outward man to the prevailing inner condition. The only true Freemasonry is that which cleanses the inner eye so that perception notes more accurately the moral and spiritual state of another, irrespective of royal robes or beggar's rags. In so far as democracy can further that true Freemasonry among men, it is doing good work. But if it be guided by doctrinaire. schemes which would dragoon people into a set pattern of living and working, it is flying in the face of certain fundamental laws of space-time activity and will sooner or later suffer a broken head.
Murder is the extreme form of the survival forces, the denial and defiance of all higher leading for mankind. It is the logical extreme consequence of . intolerant dislike. If I take exception to another for the Oxford or Manchester quality of his speech, or the shape of the hat he wears or the smartly conventional cut of his wedding garments, I am yielding to that intolerance whose ripe fruit is murder and. the removal from the perception of my senses of that other whom I dislike. The fanatical democrat is therefore always in danger of committing this unpardonable indiscretion, from his early childhood until his latest day. For in this respect as in all others the child 'is father of the man. In such temptation there is nothing abnormal. If ego were the sole inhabitant of our physical organism, murder would be necessary and justifiable. It is impossible to foster one's own ego without injuring that of another, and the final arbitrament is soon reached which decrees that the opposing ego must be removed from the earthly scene. Ego's sole duty and purpose is to survive, and since every ego is under the same necessity, a strife of extermination among egos must result. The hard framework of civilized life tries to neutralize this warfare, but since little is known of the true nature of Self, the intolerances felt among egos are not liquidated. And these intolerances not being generally recognized for what they are, society, is ready enough to condone them and regard them as of small significance. Yet if murder is so heinous a sin, it is hard to see why the many and various intolerances which tend towards it should not be penalized. You cannot have oaks without acorns, and though it demands much patience to gather up the acorns before they take root and grow, the labour is less than the effort required to fell oaks.
Herein do we see Self's extreme need to exercise trusteeship towards others. Self, having no care for survival in space-time, takes no part in the struggle of others with others. But it will not tamely submit to the faintest notion of domination by them. That is why a Christ or a Buddha can never be dominated by a tyrant or dictator. He may resign k physical life if the issue demand it, but in that act he preserves his freedom. Self's trusteeship cannot take the form prescribed by any specialized religion or philosophy. Working in a changing medium it must be able to take advantage of ever-altering conditions. That is why there can never be one unchanging religion or philosophy for all people and for all time. To believe there is, is to shut one's eyes to the patent fact of continual phenomenal change. The' greatest obligation laid upon Self, is to be kind, tolerant and loyal to whatever light may come from the beyond. Self never strives to work out a scheme by which all members of a State may be kept on a level of equality, for even if this were possible legally, intellectually and economically, the knowledge of personalities by other personalities must always be vague, inaccurate and misleading. To set up rigid rules of how people shall live or to try and keep them at one dead level of economic and social equality is to build on shifting sand. Self in space-time cannot fail to find the experience it needs, and as for ego and personality there is no occasion to take them seriously. They are no more than shadows cast on a screen, shadows which flicker and go out almost as soon as they are observed. Self says therefore to the Socialist: "Cease from this obsession with a multitude of others, concerning whom you really know nothing at all. Cease from this fussy preoccupation with the wrongs of your own class. Wrongs there may be, but in so far as they have power to harm, it is the underlying consciousness that needs attention. The angry man or the man with a grievance is own brother to the madman. Is there no hatred, no greed, no jealousy, no brutality, no petty spite among your own class? Well then, it is these conditions,, based on a state of consciousness, which spoil life for them. And for yourself, when you make your next speech, ask yourself what are the motives beneath your impassioned rhetoric. Divine anger? But God is never angry and knows no passion. If you know so, little of psychology that you do not understand what ego is or how it has come into being, all your fire and eloquence are hollow and empty' mere sound and fury signifying nothing, and you can never help these others for you simply inflame their passions and render their condition worse."
To the privately endowed and the privileged Self says: "Cease from striving for more material possessions and from grumbling at the burden of taxation. In the past those of your class have enjoyed great material benefit, but what use did they make of it? Here was an opportunity to pursue those graces of the spirit which the leisured more than others can, if they will, pursue. Instead of following after these things, they bent all their energies to sport, to social and political advancement, to the exercise of power, to the domination of those under their control. Or they pursued the dull, average way of ordinary conventional life, paying lip service to a conventional religion and a conventional code of morality. Even when, as it sometimes did, boredom with such a. way of living overwhelmed them, they refused to face their true condition but went to the doctor for a draught or to an expensive nursing home for a rest cure which did not bring, them rest. For only the honest pursuit of spiritual values can bring rest to the spirit. Learn then from their failure, to bring more light into your living. Self will never take any interest in what you have but only in what you are."
The blindness which persuades us that we can understand other personalities, would fain also persuade us that we, can understand other nations. Yet the facts are far otherwise. No doubt the geographical destiny which has set us on an island has caused us to be greatly interested in our own doings and to imagine that other nations are equally interested in them. We are apt to take it for granted that other nations regard us more or less as we regard ourselves. This is far, from the truth. Other nations do not believe in our protestations of goodwill. They are much more ready to set us down as hypocrites and free-booters. They say we occupy a great deal more of the globe than we have any right to. It is a baffling puzzle to them to understand how these things have come about. They do not like us because we are so fond of talking about "the moral basis" of this and that. We profess friendship and goodwill and while doing so we live and prosper by a relentless competition, just as they do themselves. They say our deeds do not square with our words. Naturally they do not. Are we not talking beasts even as they are also? It is this fact however that we are so reluctant to admit. Owing to our island position we have been obliged to maintain a high degree of integrity in finance. Otherwise we could not pay for our many imported goods. Forgetting the geographical factor we have taken much unction to ourselves for this integrity, and, sometime imagine that we are at all points better than others. The remedy is obvious. We should put our house in better order and talk about our moral intentions.
In the past we have been so foolish as to believe not only that our system of government was the best that could be devised but that it was the only form of government suited to other nations. We talked much of "the Mother of parliaments" and 'vainly imagined that Westminster would become a sort of political grandmother to all the, world. It was a vain dream born of conceit and ignorance. In like manner our wage-earners imagined that if all the wage-earners of Europe got together and had a long heart-to-heart talk, they would very soon come to see that our point of view and our institutions were the best. The last few years have done much to dissipate such dreams. We are beginning to realize how little we know about other nations and how dangerous it is to mount an international platform, proclaim a set of high-sounding moral maxims and expect that all other nations will at once applaud and follow our lead without question.
In considering other nations we must never forget that we are dealing with abstractions. Nations are composed of a vast number of personalities always swayed subconsciously by mass ideas and mass hysterias. Their habit of gregariousness (which they confuse with friendliness and kindness) renders them highly susceptible to propaganda and especially to such propaganda as appeals to their animal and atavistic inclinations. A nation is not a, static thing. Its moods vary like the English weather. What it hates to-day it may love to-morrow. Sound knowledge of other nations is therefore hard to gain. Our rulers and our diplomats seldom attain it, for their national and class prejudices distort their vision. Foreigners are to them mostly oddities, and no subtler discrimination is thought necessary. Nor have they the necessary insight to read men and so have to rely on official badges and titles. Yet we cannot hope to manage successfully even our home affairs without a sound knowledge of our neighbours, in other lands. In war much paper is wasted in printing leaflets and drop ping them on enemy territory. Such leaflets effect practically nothing at all. Even in peace time propaganda from one, nation to another, no matter how honest the effort may be, is wasted labour. We cannot with benefit thrust our home-grown ideas on another nation. We do. well to reflect that no single nation has a monopoly of moral or spiritual values. The unconscious knows no boundary of race or creed, education or government. No nation can ever safely or with benefit play the pedagogue to another nation. Yet the problem as to how peace may be maintained is a harassing one to many minds. If no congresses or leagues or covenants will secure it, what is to be done? The process here is the same as that among individuals. Nobody can be, compelled to seek inward peace. Wrong living and wrong thought will always defeat such efforts. All that can be done is for each individual to become more humbly anxious to live well, to act sincerely and honestly; neither to do nor to think evil, but to do all in his or her power to keep alight the torch of aspiration in the heart. Great changes come from within, never from without. For the adult to try to change or improve others is usually futile, but to change oneself is always possible. And the first step in that splendid adventure is to know that one needs changing. To hit another on the head when one is angry or irritable is easy; it is the natural animal reaction. If I am called a fool by another how readily the tu quoque flies from my tongue. That is the way that wars and strikes are born. The calm and balanced man desires one thing only: to become a little less like a beast and to become a little more like a man.
The courage of understanding is far different from the weak good-nature of inertia and ignorance. We must never forget that we have to deal with many people, To go, unarmed and think they will respect us simply because. we do not carry a gun is the extreme of foolishness. Much foolishness has entered the world by mistaken notions and crude interpretations of Christianity. When Christ bade us turn the other check to an assailant he did not mean that we should condone wickedness or turn a blind eye to cruelty. Did he allow the Pharisees to slap him in the face? By no means. He denounced them whenever opportunity occurred. He aroused all their hostility knowing full well the extreme danger to himself. Peace is not an end in itself any more than is happiness. War is handsomer than the affectation of peace, and inward content is handsomer than the affectation of a boisterous happiness.
Nothing will ever make us other than a romantic people. We have not the cynical realism of the French nor the brutal realism of the Germans. Ideals germinate on our soil as plentifully as mushrooms. It is up to us therefore to make these ideals as practical and as widely beneficial as we, can. For this reason it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on our politicians, our bureaucrats and our churchmen. Many of these men play with ideals as children play with toys. It helps to pass the time for them, to keep them out of worse mischief and to win them the badges accorded to, the good and successful. But in so far as their personal lives are frivolous or vicious all their philanthropic efforts are either nugatory or harmful. Insincerity is the atmosphere in which all moral pestilences breed. Vast sections of the populace can always be trusted to open their mouths and shout applause whenever such words as "honour," "glory," "brotherhood," and "service" are flung at them with sufficient unction or emphasis. That great Chinese leader and statesman, Kung (Confucius) was chary of using such vague, abstract terms. He refused even to' use the word "God" or "Heaven." He was determined at all costs to keep in touch with plain common sense facts, which could not be misunderstood or twisted to serve private or party ends. Kung did not talk a great deal, but he always knew what he was talking about. Our politicians tend in the opposite direction. Ambiguity and vagueness are the essence of human speech. Unless terms are continually defined, talking has no more meaning than the sound of the wind through the poplars.
The fundamental doctrine of Self which has been enunciated by such leading philosophers as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Archibald Weir cannot find anything to approve in ideologies which can see no further than ego and personality. Self can have nothing to do with ideologies based on reason, to the exclusion of all higher guidance. Self is mainly concerned with ideals but only as they take shape in a personal and practical form. Self's trusteeship for others can never be disregarded without serious consequences. The guiding Self insists that the only purpose of the individual life in space-time is to help and encourage others. But Self is doomed to encounter many obstacles. There is the ever-present difficulty of its own ego and personality. These have to be purified and cleansed of their own grosser elements before effective trusteeship can be exercised. Herein lies the gravest difficulty of those who urgently feel the call of the ideal. Talking beast in the adult stage is not, and cannot be, properly aware of the activities of his own ego, for he moves as in a fog, unable to perceive from whence come the contradictory impulses that move him to speech and action. His highest inspirations tend to become fanatical owing to the urgency of ego; and for the same reason, his seeking for peace is too often the expression of a weary inertia. To try and help another before Self has become the dominant partner in the partnership of Self, personality and ego, is like trying to cross, a river by means of stepping-stones when the first half dozen stones are missing. Until that supremacy has come into being Self's trusteeship can be, helpfully exercised only by the cultivation of humility and the clear perception that idealistic effort, even when exercised by the most important people, is usually worthless. Thus we come to understand that there can be no true idealist, no true philanthropist, no true social reformer except the saint, and his outlook must not be confined within the cramping limits of any religion or of any church.
We English-speaking people are generally regarded as singularly lacking in the faculty of imagination. Probably (despite the fact that we have given birth to the world's greatest dramatist and to a host of keenly imaginative novelists) this is true. Surprise is sometimes expressed that so unimaginative a race should be so much concerned with ideals, in literature, in government,. and in living. But in truth there is no anomaly here. The influence of Self is not expressed through the faculty of imagination. It is expressed through the far higher faculty of perception. It was for this reason that Plato banished poets and poetry from his ideal Republic. Socrates in his "Defence" relates how he went to the greatest poets then living in Attica and asked them to explain some of the deepest philosophical passages in their works. The result, he said, was deplorable. It was clear that they knew even less than he did of the profound problems of life. The reason is by no means obscure. The poet is not concerned with living but with writing. The imagination on which his poetic gift is based is keen, but his perception is only that of the average adult talking beast.
A pertinent illustration of this is seen in the condition of Eire. There we have a highly imaginative people, much' given to poetry and passionately tenacious of their legends of a Golden Age. But their perception of truth is not keen. They find it easier to be amusing and kind than to be sincere. They are the ready victims of an ecclesiastical system of the past and though they are ready enough to grow heated in discussions of the ideal they have not yet risen to. the practical ideal of segregating the pigsty from the living-room.
In this book, based upon the central truth of Self, that beacon which alone can bring light to a dark world, the vast, nebulous and illusive region of thought and experience known as Religion, has been glanced at from time to time and from a variety of angles. Owing to the vastness and the vagueness of the many spheres involved, it is necessary to tread with more than usual caution and with all. the awareness at our command. Here are immense mountain ranges, impenetrable forests, great lakes and seas, mines of rich are and hungry quicksands. Toilers in this land are of many kinds and moved by a variety of motives. Our greatest danger, therefore, is to imagine that when we use the word "religion" we convey a clear notion on a definite subject which has the same meaning for all men. Academic minds when they become aware of a difficulty of this kind turn to the dictionary or the encyclopædia for an explanation of the term religion. But words, to the more alert and eager spirits who are in search of reality, are vain things. They give no help but only mislead the mind by cheating us into the belief that we know what we have read or been told but have never experienced. The futility of trying to settle fundamental matters of this kind by logical thought or a sequence of words is illustrated by the great variety of creeds and religions which have always existed. It has become the pious custom to deplore this diversity and the friction and waste of effort it entails. The dream of of one only true religion thus takes its place with the mirage of one serene perfectibility for all, a perfect world-civilization in which all are equal in every respect and all dwell together in amity. Yet throughout nature we see the expression of an infinite diversity of form and structure and function. If outward uniformity be imposed by the will of man, it endures but for an instant and is swiftly swept away in the inevitable disintegration of living forms.
Religions are necessarily historical in origin. They derive from a leader. They appeal to the witness of human testimony. And here we find ourselves confronted with a difficulty. Historians, in common with other workers in the field of science, only began to appreciate the need for strict accuracy and impartiality during the last two hundred years. And even when the need was seen, the end was hard to compass. Human words and speech were not designed for accurate, scientific purposes. Words are but the articulate sounds of the lower animals improved and developed by human self-consciousness. They had their origin in the human scene and are therefore limited in scope. Events happen in time and are recorded by men in a variety of stages of development. Never are two witnesses in complete agreement as to an event they have witnessed.
History is therefore the least exact of sciences and must always remain so. It seems likely that even economics and statistics are less inaccurate. Moreover man is a beast who feels as well as thinks. The rational faculty plays a very small part in the direction of any life–even of the wisest. His conscious life is but as a straw floating, on the vast ocean of the unconscious. He is forever swayed by immense tides of which he is either unconscious or only partially aware. The religious sphere is necessarily on the shore of this unconscious; If any man thinks his religion is the fine flower of the reasoning faculty, he is fundamentally mistaken. The many biases to which history is subjected are seen most vividly in the religious sphere. Though a man should study all the religions for twenty years in order to join the best, in the end it would not be his rational, logical faculty that made the choke but the blend of inherited tendencies in his personality. For similar reasons a Roman Catholic historian will not take that view of the Papacy taken by a Lutheran historian. Yet each has access to the same documents. What then has occasioned this difference of view? The explanation is obvious to any impartial mind. The personality of the one derived from a Catholic mother and of the other from a Lutheran mother.
Civilized man, in his modernist, scientific environment, has become acutely aware of this diversity of opinion. But not fully realizing the significance of personality, it puzzles him not a little; sometimes it distresses him acutely. Our Victorian forefathers were greatly troubled by such books as Edmund Gosse's "Father and Son." Robert Louis Stevenson was Plunged into despair in his early manhood because he and his father had a difference of opinion on the subject of the catechism. A better knowledge of psychology and of the nature of human consciousness has changed the mental and spiritual atmosphere and rendered such crucial antagonisms between disparate personalities less likely to occur. But for this beneficial change we have paid a price. Increase in tolerance has been accompanied, by decrease in trust. Shallow thinking has undermined faith in the fundamental principles of being. Much religious nonsense has been jettisoned, but a good deal of the corn has gone with the chaff.
It is hardly surprising therefore that the thinking animal in the aggregate has assumed an attitude of tolerant but lofty indifference towards all religions and creeds. This attitude appears shocking to the old-fashioned who still seek salvation in litanies and liturgies. He is almost persuaded to accept it as an axiom that civilization, assisted by science, has progressed beyond a point where religion is necessary. But in adopting this view he has lost sight of the fact that he is an unfinished animal and that the work of creation is still in progress. He has not; in space-time, attained finality or completeness. And the unfinish of his inward state is reflected in the chaos of his civilization. He stands therefore in need of every assistance he can find in the work of regeneration. He cannot afford, for reasons of pride or self-sufficiency, to turn away from the many forms of religious aspiration which are the heritage of the past. But as regards religion there is this obligation laid upon him. He cannot avail himself of the relief and assistance which religion can give without the exercise of strict sincerity. And if no form of dogmatic religion can arouse in him this response of whole-hearted acceptance, then he must stand aside and in all humility wait until the true impulse to which he can freely respond shall awake in his unconscious.
In the sphere of religion, the most imperative need is to remember that there is no one form of religion which can be' offered to all with benefit. In this, as in the material sphere, the old adage of one man's meat being poisonous to another, cannot be neglected. Men ate not all on one level of spiritual attainment. Truth has many facets and while it may be good for one man to be a Plymouth Brother or a Buddhist, it may be equally good for another to be a Christian Scientist or an agnostic. Herein lies the menace of missionary zeal. The acceptance of a creed capable of inspiring high spiritual aspiration does not necessarily induce that katharsis or cleansing which must always be the initial step in all spiritual development. And where this initial step is not taken the danger of an enlarged ego is a serious menace. The new convert to a religion is frequently fanatical and his desire to convert others to his. way is directly opposed to the trusteeship of Self which is based upon freedom and not upon coercion. Missionary enterprise might sometimes be justified if it were based on broad, cultural lines alive to the dangers that are always threatening from the fevered activities of personality , and ego But the, narrow and obscurantist views which the exposition of a creed begets do not prepare the ground for the seeds of healthy spiritual growth.
The greatest weakness of the missionary position is due to the fanaticism which is blind to the diversity of human needs. It is not the diversity and multiplicity of creeds which constitute a menace to the peace of the world or the salvation of mankind but the ignorance and fanaticism in the consciousness of those who profess these creeds. The best religion in the world is not seen to advantage in an adherent whose personality is flamboyant and whose ego is not under proper control. The history of all religions provides examples of many priests and churchmen of this type. But we I must not impatiently conjecture that such men would have been better without the religion they professed. For the crude materialist and the light-hearted hedonist may be greater menaces to society than the fanatic.
Talking beast has grown so accustomed to the idea that religion must have an historical basis that certain deeper aspects of the religious life escape his notice. A study of religious experience as expressed in the lives of saints and mystics of all religions would bring a clarification of ideas to the sincere investigator.
It was due to a severe illness and the katharsis which followed it, and not to study at any university or seminary, that St. Francis of Assisi gained his deep insight into the inner world of the spirit. As a result he experienced a change of consciousness. The gay, frivolous life of dissipation he had hitherto led appeared dull and unsatisfying compared with the intensity of life brought to him, by Self universal, an intensity transcending all thought, and all words, but which he interpreted in terms of love and selfless devotion to those about him. The fact that he owed this change of consciousness and of life to an inward experience akin to that of Paul of Tarsus, Mahomet, and other leaders, is significant. If dogmatic teaching or the acceptance of a creed based on historical testimony were enough, all the adherents of a creed would experience a change similar to that St. Francis experienced. But this is not the case. It was certainly not close association with the church of his time and country which enabled St. Francis to enter the circle of the mystics. The revelation which came to him came from the unconscious, of which Self must always be the agent. His life changed because his consciousness changed. To the modernist mind with its wider horizon and its more inquiring temper, the ecclesiasticism which was the instrument through which he was compelled to work, must appear a severe handicap. It was not only that the higher officials with whom he had to reckon were neither enlightened nor sympathetic but his own perception was blunted by, the literal interpretation of historical authority. The story of the Stigmata, which is probably authentic, has its origin in medieval literalness. There is no need to go further than the' ample evidence provided by hypnotic phenomena for illustration of the power of mind over matter. St. Francis had meditated so long and so deeply on -the Crucifixion that wounds as of one crucified appeared on his hands and his feet. Wisdom is justified of all her children. The greatest thinker or sage cannot intellectually travel far beyond the age in which he contacts time-space. St. Francis was a true child of the Middle Ages. Had he lived among the more enlightened spirits of the age of Socrates, the measures of his wisdom would have been deeper, his interpretation of his experience more balanced and his meditation directed to more spiritual ends. The medieval saint seldom realized that too great a veneration for the authority of the past breeds fanaticism and prevents development. In other words, true liberation, which comes from the unconscious, will always be careful to make reason its tool and its servant.
That authority alone, apart from the guidance of the individual consciousness and the guardianship of Self, is not sufficient, is seen in the rapid degeneration of any religion when the light within waxes dim. Who could have imagined that the joyous, kindly and creative religion of St. Francis, would in a few brief centuries give place to the devilish cruelty of the Inquisition? The historical authority was the same in each case.
Religious truth remains sterile in consciousness until consciousness accepts and assimilates it. This can only happen when the religious truth externally presented is found to coincide with the truth which consciousness discovers for itself by looking within. Thus the basis of all true religion is not historical authority but consciousness informed and enlightened by Self. For the same reason the teaching of one by another has to rely always on auto-suggestion. A truth not accepted is a truth not learned. If truth does not tend to increase our measure of freedom and bring us release from the hard determinism of time-space it is not the truth needed by us for our development.
The mystic, the true philosopher (not to be confused with the academic philosopher-worldlings so prominent in our civilization) and the saint do not rely on external authority. Knowing that the light is within, they early quit the lecture-room. And in thus doing they are obedient to authority. "When ye pray, enter into your chamber, and when ye have shut the door, pray to your Father which is in secret. . . "
It is inevitable that in our passage through space-time we shall meet others so offensive and repugnant in person and character that it is a mystery to us how they can endure their own company. Yet often they appear tolerably happy and content. The explanation is that Nature is kind, or should we say cunning? In concealing the offensiveness of the ego and the personality nearest to us (that is to say, our own) she has made space-time existence tolerable even to the most repugnant. If it were not so, many could not endure their own company for a day, and suicide would become rampant. The poet Bums wished that the gift might be given us of seeing ourselves as others see us. So cruel a gift would numb the senses into a stupefaction which would, render all effort to attain maturity appear vain. Understanding of our own vileness is the gradual result of a slow awakening. The truth is seen first in others and last in ourselves. It is one of the factors we have to take into account, no matter in what sphere we are set. Certainly the sphere of religion is no exception. We are all ready enough to express horror at the crimes of the Borgia Popes. But the average Christian of to-day is no less a sinner against the fundamental injunctions of his leader. It is a sobering reflection and should induce a mood of charity and tolerance.
The religion in which we have been born and nurtured, and which we regard as our own, appears to the majority good and desirable owing to the attractiveness conferred by custom and habit. It was for this reason a philosopher declared: "It is good to be born in a religion but bad to die in it." Still greater is the attraction of the religion or creed we have selected for ourselves in later life. But such seeming choice is misleading, for a reasoned choice, apart from the bias of personality, is impossible. The man who selects a religion for himself has not necessarily chosen the best, or even the best for himself; he has only indulged the inclinations of his own personality. The only true test of the efficacy of a religion is to be found in the life of its adherent. To change one's religion is but to change one garment for another. The new dress looked very attractive in the shop-window but when worn it soon begins to look shabby. And so in a world where we cannot go naked, all religions are but coverings for spirits whose needs are fundamentally the same. Organized religions of great variety are undoubtedly necessary for mankind in the adult state. But the only, true test of any religion's efficacy is found in the process of daily living. In so far as it helps to overcome unfinish and to assist towards a more mature condition it is amply justified for those who can benefit by it. But the adherent of a religion must not make the mistake of believing that because it is good for him, therefore it is equally good for another. To think so is to hold the erroneous view that it is possible for a man in the adult condition to know the inward state of another. There are many zones in the anthropological scale and though we all wear the same form we are as dissimilar one from another as a cow from a crocodile. If you treat a crocodile as though it were a cow, you will sooner or later discover your mistake. But much irritation and discomfort may happen to you before you have finally given up all attempts to milk the crocodile. Uniformity and equality are two mirages which move forever before the eyes of mankind. They are but vain superstitions that have bred much mischief in the past ,and will, no doubt, continue to breed mischief and misunderstanding. Jealousy and pride, are the breeding-grounds of such vain imaginings. The wise man does not desire all men to be equal. He patiently toils for a time when all men shall be inspired only and always by goodwill. The life of the cloister which had so strong an appeal for the medieval aspirant to the peace that passes understanding is still not without appeal for many of our species. In truth it is probable that a great many would seek to "lay their burden at the minster gate" were they, not deterred by the necessity to take vows of life-long obedience and to accept dogmas that had their origin in ages when even the learned and the religious were blinded by the crudest conceptions of faith, religion and duty. Yet the urge i a true one, for it is abundantly apparent that in the stresses and strains of modern civilization the cultivation of the graces of the spirit has become almost impossible. Even when the will and the capacity are present, the obstacles in the path of following the way to inward peace are in most cases insuperable. And for those few who have attained some measure of freedom from the struggle to live, and who have become aware that purely intellectual effort is not enough, there are no cloisters available where the life of disciplined aspiration may be lived and where the free&in of the individual from the burden of antique dogma is respected and maintained. Private enterprise has here and there attempted the establishment of such centres but usually without much success. The need for the presiding presence of one who has advanced far enough in spiritual attainment is not easily met. And where the controlling. spirit is unequal to the task imposed on him, the results will be either nugatory or disastrous. Ego and personality are the dragons which very soon gain access to the establishment, and unless the presiding genius has proceeded far enough to be able to exorcise these by inducing the necessary katharsis the state of the postulant who would tread the path to peace is likely to become worse than his condition on arrival. Ego is always eager to meddle, especially in religious matters, and the results are deplorable. Hardness heart and obstinacy result, and these qualities render the treading of the path an impossibility.
It was well that the medieval monasteries were dissolved. New wine cannot be put into old bottles, and the old wine had been kept too long to retain its efficacy. Yet the old monasteries provide a good working model of what might be done to assist those who are aware of the urgent need for periods of seclusion from the world. The medieval monk and nun were always at a disadvantage, for with their vows of life-long celibacy and their exclusion from the rough and tumble of the world, they lost touch with life in the world. Yet mankind cannot hope to make much progress in efficient living without the opportunity of following a disciplined life based on ideals that are broad, practical and constructive. If any kind of monastic system be ever again introduced, to be effective, any vows or, discipline imposed must be temporary in their application, And such endeavour would need to be based on the experience of those whose spiritual attainment has carried them far beyond the region of parochial effort and ecclesiastical dogma. Its aim would be to assist Self to attain that higher ascendency in the individual which leads to greater freedom from the slavery imposed by personality and ego.
There is nothing new in the spiritual aim herein suggested. It is but the restatement of an abiding truth, in modem terms and with the stress laid on freedom rather than on authority. While regretting that the old monastic system proved at last inadequate, we must not forget that the old monastic establishments, despite ignorance, dogmatic fanaticism and unwholesome sex repressions, did occasionally produce saints of commanding power and wisdom. The degrees of bliss which some of these men and women attained, which shone in their faces and vibrated in the friendliness of their voices and was manifest in the courage with which they faced life and death under terrible conditions, it is these things that attract the neophite if his aspirations be genuine. Though many failures resulted from the system, it certainly succeeded in some cases in giving to the Self of the religious that freedom which in the world of others is an intense a highly intelligent friendliness. To-day the world wonders how such a result could issue from such a set of dogmas.
Yet it is necessary that we shall not despise nor feel impatient of dogma. It has served a useful purpose in ruder ages of thought and manners and for some' minds is not without its uses to-day. It serves very much as idols. serve primitive peoples. It helps to still the activity of the conscious mind and thus to set free the intimations of the unconscious.
For the modern world, so far as religion is concerned, the need is to make an entirely new adventure. There is no need for new religions nor for the destruction of the old. We need rather a more enlightened attitude towards all religions. It is essential that we shall cleanse our minds of the old idea that religion is simply a certain standard of morality which must remain the same for all time; or a comfortable couch whereon a few distressingly good elderly folk may recline to the edification, or the amusement, a, the younger generation. Nor is it a pleasant preserve or zoological gardens where nice, refined talking beasts, known as professors and ministers of religion may teach and preach and hold winter conferences and summer schools and lecture one another on problems of education and citizenship. It is far more intimate and exasperating in its implications than any of these remote aspects of life. . It is a life of inward struggle, experience and adventure. It has its home in that unconscious which at certain crucial moments convicts the wife of being a shrew and the husband a beast. It can, at times, make the profligate vomit his profligacy and the prim little maiden lie with a man in despite of all the curses and derision of the world. Routine and convention shrive before the hot blast of this cleansing flame. Religion is seldom present in a church when parson and congregation are speaking in formal terms to a remote God and using a liturgy that is beautiful but almost unintelligible to a modern mind. Religion is more likely to be found in the church when parson and people have gone home to their Sunday dinner and the ,old verger is smoking his pipe by the fire. For religion can have no existence save where there is sincerity and honesty and a devil-may-care determination to be done with cant and flummery. It is the spirit-which inspires the ordinary man and woman and helps them to fight on amidst all the trials of life. And in this contest they must cease to struggle and be ready to face silence and loneliness and vacuity without flinching. It is the inflowing tide of the unconscious which forbids cruelty and commands kindness. It is the gentle spirit which would at all costs avoid pride and obstinacy and the exercise of power for selfish ends. It is the spirit which seeks to wait upon the unconscious for an ever-increasing peace of mind with a consequent reaction on the body of healthy functioning.
The life of religion, which is essentially the healthy and normal life of mankind, can never be an easy adventure for it runs counter to all the natural desires of the animal nature. It is not the outcome of evolution but a victory won in the face of evolutionary forces. It is not a matter of the mind but of the heart, and it is for this reason that even the wisest and most learned have to cast away their learning and become as little children. It is the antithesis of modern education which turns the child into the cunningly instructed adult; religion turns the instructed adult into the child again. Hence the futility of the religious instruction given in schools and colleges. It is given by people who know no more of what religion is than does the cat asleep by my fire. The teaching of creeds and catechisms is not religion nor is the teaching of pious moralities by people who do not practise or believe in' them. It is not the quantity but the quality of religion that counts. The ignorant man who has never heard of Christ or Buddha but is utterly sincere in word and deed is nearer the kingdom of heaven than the learned scholar who preaches in the university church and whose private life is full of petty vexations and jealousies. Here again we have a luminous and self-evident platitude which everywhere receives lip-service but which occasions remarkably little uneasiness.
People who live more in cerebral than in abdominal activity are sometimes concerned with what theologians have labelled "the Problem of Evil." How many sermons and lectures have been delivered on that theme; how many books have been written on it! And yet, save in the cerebral region, there is no such problem. The cow, living in the abdominal and not the cerebral sphere, does not trouble herself with the problem of how she turns grass into milk. The learned might just as profitably write books and preach sermons on the problem of rain or the problem of night. People are continually being drowned by too much rain arid destroyed by too much darkness. Nevertheless the crops cannot grow without rain nor can recuperative rest be secured without darkness. Man passes from the adult stage to maturity and 'from unfinished maturity to complete manhood by his struggles with adverse conditions which appear to him in the cerebral sphere as "Evil." But were it not for that evil all progress would be denied him. Life is not static but fluid and the scene of many forces in conflict and seeking balance. The materialist and the hedonist are sinners against this necessity for balance. Sooner or later they are bound to experience unhappiness and a resultant change of direction which will bring a clearer perception of their own inner condition.
There is a popular belief, widely held among professedly religious people, that philosophy is somehow opposed to religion and that the philosopher is a rare and somewhat sinister bird with whom the religious should hold no converse lest they be seduced from their faith. Such a view is born only of ignorance and a failure to understand either religion or philosophy. For the adventure of philosophy cannot be other than the adventure of religion. Each is concerned with the search for truth, which makes men free. In each case sincerity and humility are of paramount importance. The philosopher-worldling and the theologian are rather like men who make use of a steam-roller to chase butterflies. The butterflies always elude them, yet they remain stubbornly convinced that the only way to capture butterflies is to become the owner of a good, weighty steam-roller. Worldliness and academic distinction are useful in their sphere, but a Socrates or a Jesus rates them as of no value at all, and indeed a hindrance to the capture of those butterflies which, if the parable be allowed, are the graces of the spirit.
The informing spirit of true religion and of true philosophy is the same, the ultimate goal is the same; the experiences on the way are not dissimilar. It is manifestly impossible that Self universal should have one message for the philosopher and another for the religious and yet another for the scientist. All these approaches lead finally to a wider horizon, a greater depth of consciousness and finally to such a degree of mental and spiritual power and such a healing warmth of friendliness as the world has seen with amazement in certain of the saints and sages.
In religion, as in other spheres, leadership is vitally necessary for though the light of truth and beauty is within, it can be assisted greatly in its shining by another in whom Self has more completely eliminated ego. The popular conception of a leader in journalistic thinking is of one who is known, at least by name or repute, to millions. This is of all vain dreams the vainest. Of the most powerful religious leaders the world has seen, we know extremely little. Our knowledge of them is not historical but legendary. A very small number of people knew them intimately. From the herd and the multitude they kept aloof, not from motives of pride but because they could only usefully contact certain people who were genuinely seekers for more light and higher guidance. Even in things of the mind this necessity is obvious. It is useless to ask a learned professor of Greek to teach Homer to an infant school. Spiritual instruction is likewise not without its graduated barriers.
Leadership is diffused throughout many zones of spiritual condition and he who is a leader to one is not necessarily a leader to another. We can, if sufficiently humble, learn much from spiritual teachers, but the process of becoming depends on our own efforts for it takes place within our own consciousness. The world is full of religions, churches, temples, meeting-houses, priests, ministers, Scriptures, Bibles, Societies, brains trusts, and an endless variety of institutions aimed at edification. There are also spiritual teachers who wear no badge and teach no doctrine, for they have entered those regions where badges and doctrines no longer have any significance. And life is so ordered 'that we meet the pilots best able to help us in the place and time assigned us by Destiny.
The fact that some appear to be without guidance is due to the pride which disdains to seek or to welcome assistance. It is left to the decision of each as to whether he will avail himself of the services of another. That other may or may not wear an official badge, and without the clear vision that comes of humility and aspiration, it is impossible to be aware of those inner graces upon which religion, philosophy and science alone can build.
The situation is a crucial one which we all have to come to terms with in our different ways. We may dismiss it utterly from our minds, but in doing so we shall do a violence to our finer qualities that will exact a penalty. For we can never thrust anything impatiently or from distaste into our unconscious without the hated thing turning up again and usually in a more unpalatable form. To face up to facts fearlessly is the vital necessity imposed on all in their pilgrimage from the dark to the dark. In Plato's account of the death of Socrates it will be remembered how Crito was inclined to run away from this problem, feeling his consciousness to be appalled by the death of his greatest and most revered friend.
"'We will endeavour then to do as you say,' he said, 'but how shall we bury you?'
"'Just as you please,' he said, 'if only you can catch me and I do not escape from you.' And at the same time, smiling gently and looking round on us, he said: 'I cannot persuade Crito, my friends, that I am that Socrates who now converses with you and who methodizes each part of the discourse; but he thinks that I am he whom he will shortly behold dead, and asks how he should bury me. But that which I some time since argued at length, that when I have drunk the poison I shall no longer remain with you, but shall depart to some happy state of the blessed, this I seem to have urged to him in vain, though I meant at the same time to console both you and myself. Be ye then my sureties to Crito,' he said, 'in an obligation contrary to that which he made to the judges; for he undertook that I should remain (in prison); but do you be sureties that when I die, I shall not remain, but shall depart, that Crito may more easily bear it, and when he sees my body either burnt or buried, may not be afflicted for me, as if I suffered some dreadful thing, nor say at my interment that Socrates is laid out, or is carried out, or is buried. For be well assured,' he said, 'most excellent Crito', that to speak improperly is not only culpable as to the thing itself, but likewise occasions some injury to our souls.'" (Phaedo, 147).
If one so near to Socrates as Crito spoke thus to his Master it is obvious how deep and widespread is the dismay which death brings to human consciousness and how essential it is that all shall bring themselves to look closely at the problem in all its bearings. Naturally direct experience is what the thoughtful mind craves, but direct experience of this matter is possible only to a few, and therefore such considerations as can be brought together may not be entirely useless for those whose desire it is to stand on firmer ground.
Bereavement is one of the most acute of life's sorrows. Companionship with others sets up an intimacy which, even when it does not strike deep, can only be broken with suffering to the bereaved. And yet the terms on which space-time life is held -give no promise of anything but the most ephemeral conditions. Birth is shrouded in an equal darkness with death. Had not this other been born we should not have suffered in the process of losing him. The suffering which bereavement brings, acute and inevitable as it is, is based on the identification of ourselves and others with ego and personality. Self is not the prey of loneliness and therefore does not rely on companionship for ease or content. If any think such reflection likely to breed a cold aloofness, he has not properly grasped the conception of Self. Love, in its highest aspect, seeks to give, not to receive. It seeks light and understanding but only that its functions may be better discharged in space-time. The mere seeking of knowledge is no virtue in itself, it is the motive alone which may be entered on the credit or the debit side. Companionship with others, whether sought or thrust upon' us, does not truly affect the problem of lonelincss. The manner of our entry and our exit from life's stage emphasises the fact of loneliness. Our social activities serve to hide this underlying condition; they do not get, rid of it. No indulgence in gregariousness can ever alter the basis of essential loneliness inseparable from time-space living. This fact has been referred to many times in these pages. It can never be repeated too often. For talking, beast would fain deny the circumstance and construct, as, many have attempted to do, a philosophy of gregariousness. But every such attempt must lead farther and farther away from reality and finally be lost in chaos. Since the companionship with another may be intercepted any minute, it is necessary that we shall seek so to live that human companionship does not blind our eyes to its, ephemeral nature. It is the source of many blessings; it is full of delights, but such blessings and delights held lightly and with a full knowledge of their nature.
We may persuade ourselves that we know another intimately. In point of fact we never do. What we know as an individual, or a personality, is a centre of many, opposing forces seeking balance. This body of another whose presence is dear to me for the spirit that inspires it, is part of ephemeral nature forever passing from season to season, from birth to death. He is in process of change.How then can we know that which is forever changing? Considering the matter thus, we are led to the reflection whether there may not be some principle in him which does not change? Thus we are led to a process of elimination in search of, the elusive Self. And thus Self is to draw its life and activity in space-time from a timeless, changeless beyond of which we are not conscious but from which all higher guidance, which cannot be traced evolutionary struggle, derives. Even in ourselves we only dimly and fitfully aware of this guiding agent and in others we can only infer his presence from certain motives and tendencies, other than those born of struggle, which we see in them.
Friendship and intimacy during earth life are very much at the mercy of the inescapable hard framework imposed by Fate. The word friendship is used to cover a wide variety of human relationships varying from the ties of self-interest to the highest and most altruistic of ideal intimacies referred to in terms of Christianity as the giving up of life for a friend. In the higher degrees of friendship there is obviously more of the real and the fundamental, and less of the shadowy and ephemeral than in companionships where lower, material interests, predominate. In the adult condition it seems that death cuts all relationship, but if, as seems probable, death removes only the passing and ephemeral accretions leaving the real and the permanent that are beneath, then it necessarily follows that the higher degrees of friendship are not severed by death. Thus it would appear that though death is a barrier for many, it is not a barrier for all. The process of maturing involves the throwing off of less inessential effete matter so that the light of reality becomes more penetrative. The experience of certain persons proves that in some cases those who have passed beyond the material screen have so much of the light in their being that wondrous intimations may penetrate the screen of matter. But such intimations are seldom revealed to a third person because only to the experiencing consciousness can they bring conviction.
Death is popularly regarded as the great enemy because of bereavement and the breaking of ties, but it must also be regarded as a friend who can bring release and increase freedom. The adult in his immaturity is far more prone, to be a. tyrant or a good-natured incubus, sucking the life out of another, than a true friend. Friendship, to be anything more than gregarious companionship, demands a high degree of reticence and we learn the lesson of reticence with repugnance and difficulty. We like to appear generous, talkative and expansive. Death comes as a friend to those whose life-companions have tyrannised over them or, through intimate relationship, wronged them. But such ties though often misrepresented as friendship have no basis of truth, sincerity or reality in them and therefore must drop away with the passing of ephemeral dead matter and cannot continue in the real which is beyond time and change. Death, though the cause of much sorrow, is also the bringer of release and the occasion of rejoicing. Yet the exigencies of a necessary make-believe insist that reverence. shall in all circumstances be accorded to death.
Death is necessarily a mystery for it is closely concerned with consciousness. It is impossible therefore to reach any finality in considering it. Consciousness, which is fed continually by the unconscious, is not a fixed or final condition. Its aspect changes with individual development, and deepens with the coming of maturity. For this reason one cannot usefully consider the matter as though it had but one aspect or were capable of one interpretation. Death is a friend to. one, a foe to another; a release to one and a dreaded uncertainty to another; an end to one and a beginning to another. And yet underlying all these varied aspects, the real and the unchanging remain. The individual's beliefs or imaginings of what death may be will not in any way alter the facts which, though so variously interpreted, are fundamentally the same for all. In the condition, known to us as life, the same variety of opinion and of experience prevails and the same underlying basis of reality. If you pick out two individuals at random and ask them, to describe earth life, they will hardly agree on any point. And yet they are both experiencing the same pilgrimage from the unknown, of birth to the unknown of death. Faced with reality, whether in life or in death, consciousness gropes. vainly for words to express the inexpressible. Poor tenuous consciousness, the child of evolutionary struggle on our little stage of exits and of entrances, remains tongue-tied. For its "yes" will always be countered with a "no" and its white will always be negated by a black. Science can teach us much, religion can furnish us with a pious hope, but time waits upon experience of the timeless. One thing only we can be assured of: that whatever is intrinsically valuable and of good report in life is equally valuable and of good report in death. The treasures we lay up for ourselves must not be based on the ephemeral and the changing. Thus we find, that the only true values are moral values and spiritual attainment, The rest is dross. The philosopher inspired by a Socratic determination to seek truth, and the saint who is not chained by dogma to any one church or creed, are the only rich men.
Popular ideas about death tend to the view that it is the end of consciousness and the term of being. But such a View does not arise from any deep and intelligent consideration of the problem. Loose journalistic thinking is always accepting false premises and building misleading arguments upon them. Tenuous consciousness is obviously part of an ephemeral world. But tenuous consciousness is fed by, the unconscious, a dark region whose shores we know imperfectly in dreams and from which come 'our highest and best inspirations. We know that death is the end of the space-time conditions imposed on life between birth and death. Space-time conditions we know, to be temporary and therefore the change of death must also partake of this temporary nature. The pain and terror which sometimes accompany death have their counterpart in the pain and terror of birth. We come wailing into the world. Only the vaguest of loose thinking can persuade anyone that death is an end or birth a beginning. Natural processes know neither beginning nor end but only becoming. If death were the end of life then there could be no birth. You cannot have sunset without sunrise. In a world of sequence there can be no such thing as first and no such thing as last. Where there is matter there must always be change. In our pilgrimage through life, custom and habit lead us astray into inadequate thinking. We lose sight of the visionary quality of life and living. Because we appear to know our fellow-men intimately and call them by familiar names we easily construct around them our own little systems of thought, behaviour and all the familiar nothings of daily living. But these are only our private fantasies; the castles we build in the air. Death comes and tramples them to fragments. And perhaps in the beyond we shall indulge new fantasies and build new castles. Much of the sorrow and suffering of life arises from mistaken notions about these fantasies and. castles.. We attach too great value to them; we hold them too dear simply because they are ours. The pride of the artist blinds him to the true nature of his inspiration. The delight of the materialist in the things he possesses imprisons him ever more tightly in his ego. It is good that death should trample to pieces the sensitive brain of the artist and the relentless will of the materialist. If it were not so the darkness of ignorance and the cruelty of the beast would increase beyond all bounds. Death, though it cannot bring enlightenment, can at least break the fetters of pride and material complacency.
When the manner in which consciousness functions is better understood we become sensible of new possibilities as regards conditions when we are dead. The manner in which consciousness functions has been repeatedly described in this book. Some may resent this repetition but those who grasp the situation will feel no irritation. If tenuous consciousness, the consciousness by which we live our daily lives,, comprised the whole of the individual's thinking processes, if all progress and development were due solely to that faculty which enables mankind to reason and to argue, then we should have a completely predictable world in which, a known cause would be followed by a foreseen result. But our world is not like that. The one thing which is utterly impossible of attainment for mankind is exact and accurate prophecy. He can never foretell what next year's harvest will be like; he does not know whether he will be alive or dead next week nor what he will be saying to his wife after breakfast to-morrow. In human affairs a known cause is seldom followed by an expected result. Tenuous thinking consciousness is merely an instrument of something far greater which we, rather misleadingly, have to call the unconscious. But this unconscious is no blind force. It is at work in the processes of growth and all our bodily functions. It is at work in all the lower animals and in all forms of vegetation. Self is an instrument of this great power whose ways we do not know but can only watch. Self, as instrument of the unconscious, has to battle with many difficulties in space-time living; it has to control the forces of evolution which have their origin in egoistic struggle for survival; and it has to operate in a material body subject always to failures of function. At death nothing would appear to be left between Self and the unconscious, which is the source of its being and the guiding principle of its existence. When this situation is adequately grasped no words can express the possibilities which open before the human spirit when freed from space-time conditions. Dante tried to indicate the wondrous vision. But words fail. Poor tenuous consciousness falls back upon what it thinks it knows and understands because familiarity has veiled perception. Here once again we issue on the wild sea banks of the untellable. We are looking down upon a vast ocean on which only the mystics and the greatest of philosophers have adventured. But they cannot pass on to us their experiences. They can only encourage us to go on seeking and so to live that we. keep our receiving apparatus effectively working. The seeming finality of death, they assure us, is illusory. For that Self, which brought us hither, a far greater thing than personality or ego, will also take us hence. For "my Me is God nor do I know my Selfhood save in Him."
Ideas of a heaven hereafter, though they have done much. to comfort and encourage, have also been fraught with danger to the human race. The thought of a possibility of bliss in a Paradise or a Valhalla hereafter has proved attractive to many a suffering spirit. Unfortunately the anticipated bliss was usually believed-to come as the reward of holding the right beliefs, or following the right leader, or fulfilling certain obligations from a sense of duty, usually felt to be more or less irksome. The nature of this happy state was sometimes defined and described with great particularity. Popular, journalistic thinking entertains the cheerful belief that it can understand everything by. means of its ordinary tenuous consciousness apart altogether from any spiritual or disciplinary efforts which the deepening of consciousness may entail. Heaven therefore in the popular view became identified with the comforts and pleasures of space-time living, a conception obviously absurd. For the popular pleasures of space-time are obviously based on the indulgence of ego. Self belongs to another world and to an order of existence wholly different. In the authoritative words of Christian scripture "the Kingdom of heaven is within you." It is therefore only the activities of personality and ego that obscure it. The brightest night will become dark as pitch when low clouds shroud the moon and the stars.
Many who pride themselves on being essentially practical people, refuse to consider the hereafter and justify their attitude on practical grounds. The true reason is not that given. It is fear. Their attitude is certainly not justified on practical grounds. And in so far as they thrust the unwelcome thought of conditions outside space-time into their unconscious they fail to live here and now satisfactorily. For the incidence of death is the most impressive encounter our finite minds can meet. It should be faced therefore fairly and squarely, with cheerfulness and serene acquiescence. Those few who occasionally indulge thoughts of the hereafter usually do so in terms of heaven; a blissful 'condition which, they imagine, will be bestowed alike on all irrespective of the condition of their consciousness in earth-life. But states of bliss necessarily result from the condition of consciousness. It is highly unlikely that the dropping of the material organism will bring bliss to the restless heart. Heaven is the Nirvana of the Buddhist and the rapture of the saint. It is wiser to think of the after-death condition as an enlargement of consciousness and a change of direction rather than as an exchange of the ignorance we suffer here for a state of full enlightenment and, permanent bliss.
No consideration of death would be at all adequate without some reference to death as an escape. It is true that people can be "put out of their misery" and thus find escape from acute physical suffering by the gift of release from the physical body. The medical profession, chained to an antique system, are required to prolong life even when death would be a kinder gift. Death is no release from the problems which render , space-time living difficult and arduous. Because we are fools or cowards licit and are suffering the fruits of foolishness and cowardice, we have no warrant for believing that self-murder will set us free from the nettles we have sown. There could be no purpose in earth-life were it not the hunting ground chosen by Self for its experience. Plainly incarnation is a discipline to train Self to find some development which will not die when death arrives. Here then we are thrown back on the principle that evil is pre-supposed in the trusteeship of Self. In point of fact it would be impossible to imagine things to be arranged otherwise. There is no imaginable career for Self in this world except in conflict with all the toils, disappointments, and wickedness which we classify as evil. Death, and avoidance of death, do not belong to this class because death is probably a good. Our world is such that a being, set to pass days and years in it, must deal with evil in various forms if he is to reach any degree of maturity in the process. And the greater the obstacles the greater the opportunities for progress in the scale of being.
Much has been written about the relationship of death with dreams and with telepathy. At least one modern thinker has tried to prove the fact of personal immortality by an interpretation of dream-consciousness. Undoubtedly a great change in the attitude towards dreaming and dream phenomena has taken place during the last twenty years. The popular opinion that dreams are mere nonsense is held with less conviction even by the most learnedly ignorant. It is beginning to be understood that there are degrees of dreaming just as there are degrees of consciousness. The dreams of the merely adult art very different from the dreams of perfect manhood; and ever in the maturing soul progress is marked by a greater efficacy in the directive symbolism of dreams. It is true that our waking life appears more ordered and more reasonable in its definite sequences than does the dream-life of sleep. But it is only the outward events and circumstances that give this -Even awake, we dream and cannot cease for impression. a moment from dreaming. It is this inner life of dreaming, awake and asleep, that is nearest to us and most potent even while we go about our daily toil. And there is no definite sequence, no reasoned advance from point to point in this life of dreaming. It has many sources, physical and emotional, conscious and unconscious, spiritual and revealing. It is the life and core of all our living no matter whether we sleep or whether. we wake. None, not even the most active and extraverted, can escape from it. And we tend always, awake and asleep, to become what we dream. It is only the dead weight of egocentric material life that persuades us otherwise. Hence it follows that our dreams are sacred things and should never be treated, lightly. If most of them appear foolish and purposeless we must humbly accept the fact. As maturity comes, they will grow in significance. Until then we must humbly wait upon development. None is ever left without light. or guidance though most lack the humility to know where to took for it.
Little can be gained from the second-hand opinions, or even from the second-hand experience of others. But we must not, for this reason, neglect the signs and signals of others who have had experiences different from our own. Telepathy has always manifested itself in certain members of the. human family. Perhaps one of the brightest examples of the telepathically-gifted was the famous Victorian publicist, W. T. Stead. The letters received telepathically through his hand from a deceased friend, are worthy of consideration. They do not reveal any great depth of thought but their tone is sincere, broad-minded and intelligent. This friend writes of the life beyond death: "This you will find. There will be no spirit at any stage of development who returns to communicate but will affirm. that there is no breach or break in the continuity of individual existence. They will all tell you that death is a transition rather than a transformation, and that, although the transition is very important, it in no way destroys the life of the soul. All will tell you that. All will testify to the fact that they went on living a conscious existence, that was marked off by no gulf from the life they led here. There is no doubt a change. But it is of circumstance rather than of character.,The memory appears to be quickened rather than dulled. The mind sees more, clearly." (Letters of Julia, by W. T. Stead (p. 78).)
The time will certainly come when death will no longer be a problem. Understanding waits upon development; not development of the intellectual faculty but of the, whole being. The process of maturing involves the process, of understanding. For the complete, finished or authentic man, death has passed away. His consciousness is no longer a consciousness bounded by the earthly scene. But for the adult to consider. what complete, perfected consciousness is, would be a vain speculation. The child can never know how the grown-up person thinks and feels until he is himself no longer a child. The adult must. humbly wait for the coming of maturity and the mature must humbly wait for the coming of completeness. Therefore, whether in life or in death, talking beast will do well to cling to the saving raft of humility. Pride will fling him into the swirling waters. But humility will bear him in safety, even through tempests of waters.
Archibald Weir lived, at the time I knew him,, in a pleasant house with a south view over Marley Common on the fringe of Sussex; a remote, retired, rather puzzling figure. Oxford had known him and after leaving the University he had travelled extensively on the Continent. But his greatest voyages and his most valuable discoveries had all been made in a long and patient study of his own consciousness. He had purposely held aloof from the philosophy of the schools. He had never lectured nor sought pupils. All his energies had run in the direction of persistent investigation into his own consciousness and to the living of a life which should be in harmony with the truths he had found.
Looking back now at his tall, gracious figure, so expressive of the innate composure, sincerity and kindness that, formed the bedrock of his character, I can understand better how great was the sense of freedom in thought and in living that he had attained. To meet him on his short morning walk across the common had something of the surprise and delight of being greeted by a visitant from some higher world. By a few of the small circle who studied his books I know that something of the same sense of release was experienced. I think one reason why his remarks, often humorously expressed, went home -was because they were never insincere, never merely conventional and never prompted by the voice of ego. You might like or dislike what he said; agree or disagree. To him it made no difference. All was said with goodwill and the assurance born of a lifetime of self-discipline and of searching into the deepest intricacies of consciousness.
There was nothing pontifical or portentous about him; nothing Johnsonian or dogmatic. When the seeker has found light within there is no need for him to shine. It is the egoist who must always be brilliant. There was often a provocative twinkle in his eye when taking his part in the inevitable social make-believe of life. I remember hearing him remark to a roomful of ladies who were expecting to talk philosophy to them: "As I grow older I find myself becoming more interested in women's dresses the less I am interested in what is inside them."
Though the son of a clergyman he had little interest in current religious thought. One evening as I sat with in his study he showed me a letter a local rector had written to him. Someone had lent this gentleman one of his books and the rector had seized the opportunity of setting fort at some length what he regarded as the orthodox Christian doctrine. The position seemed to me so funny that I laughed somewhat scornfully. For here was a complete ignoramus in philosophy rushing in without staying take advice of the angels. But I was at once taken to task. "No," said Weir, "he has written precisely the right letter; he has written precisely as a parish priest of the Church England ought to write to the author of Shallows and Deeps. Since he is not a philosopher one must not him to understand the philosophy of consciousness. But he has a duty to fulfil and he has discharged this to the best, of his ability." I returned the letter in penitent silence.
Archibald Weir was a keen and loving student of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The most prized treasure in his study was a carving in wood of the Greek text of passage from the Meditations. This was fixed to the wall above a small statue of the great Emperor on horseback, a miniature copy of the famous statue on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.
I well remember how, at the conclusion of a garden party given to welcome his new neighbours, he took some of us up to his study and pointing to the Greek, translated it thus: "Modestly take: cheerfully resign."
"There," he said, "you have a fundamental truth which would change the human scene beyond recognition if it were faithfully practised by all. Gone would be wars, labour troubles, the lust of power, the greed of a humanity that has not the insight to recognize its own vileness. Ego does not take modestly, it is always clamouring for more in the name of some abstraction like Right or Justice, and it never resigns anything unless it is compelled."
And then, his eye resting kindly but thoughtfully upon certain of his neighbours who did not quite approve of spiritual truth being expounded by anyone save the Rector, he added: "You know, it is interesting to bear in mind that the Scripture ascribed to Marcus Aurelius is among the few that have never given rise to controversy, let alone bloodshed."
There is so much make-believe involved in the processes of daily living even among the most estimable people, that a Sage living by a deeper standard of values, is bound to be misapprehended. We look upon others through a cloud created by our own ego and personality and this cloud renders true perception an impossibility. If,- as happens to few, we are privileged to meet a true philosopher who has transcended, not only egocentric thinking but egocentric living, it is easy to fall into many errors concerning him. There must have been many who mistook Archibald Weir's candour for egoism and his naive honesty for humbug. It is for the same reason that many scholar-worldlings venerate Socrates as an historic figure who would find him worse than the toothache had it been ordained that they should meet him in the flesh and suffer examination at his hands.
The foregoing pages partake of the nature of a collaboration. I do not think I have seriously misrepresented the, chief features of Archibald Weir's teaching. It is unnecessary to say that he had no system. He, set no store by logic or the syllogistic reasoning of the purely intellectual thinker. It was probably for this reason that he was claimed by Evelyn Underhill for a mystic. Yet he laughingly disclaimed the appellation. Although all roads meet in Rome there will always be the infinitely varied personalities of the pilgrims to be considered.
It may, be, objected, since Archibald Weir's philosophy is to be found in his books, why should another come between him and his readers? My defence is that Weir's style, austerely beautiful as it is and entirely natural to himself, is too classical and too suggestively 'subtle for the eager impetuous minds of to-day. And yet for such a message as his, rightly understood, the tormented modern world is athirst. For here is a thinker who refused utterly to be content with second-hand thinking or to accept the findings of authority merely because it is Authority. He was determined to know as much as man can know about consciousness and the world in which between birth and death he is compelled to live.
It is my hope that some readers of this book will like to have a few treasures from this mine and therefore I have gathered a handful here. They should be read slowly and thoughtfully. He who runs may read, says the adage. But such cursory reading is not for those who aspire to become something a little better than talking beasts. On the vileness of humans Weir writes: "We can perceive why the adjective vile has so insistently attended the idea of beings just as they are produced by the operation of rude general conditions. Of necessity beings thus produced are common and of small value. Life in its simpler stages does fill the world with common, mean beings striving to prevail at any cost. And for that sort of progeny the most appropriate epithet is vile. . . . Yet the vile is the only conceivable occasion why such ameliorative influences should exist and proceed to embellish the earth. Our own personality and ego come first in order among the vile to need a more gracious atmosphere." (Others.)
From Shallows and Deeps I cull this on the elusive self. "Self is always part of our being and agent of our higher consciousness. It is part of a process and never appears as an entity. It forms the basis of our spiritual life."
The remoteness of others from ourselves is seldom understood. Yet an understanding of it is essential to a true interpretation of life. "We must be prepared to treat this most intriguing subject with provoking detachment. We must, indeed, begin by regarding our fellows as members of a space-time environment which is as remote as the stars, as enigmatical as atoms, as illusive as colours, and as wanting in fixed position as our own planet. And as certainly they cannot be known directly to self, nor can they be vested with absolute value." (Others.)
In the following passage from Light, Weir gently puts aside the suggestion that he is a mystic. "When we connect souls with the real, number ceases to be relevant. When sought from this approach spirits in the real become one or rather an aspect. For one is too like a number to serve our purpose. The main result is clear. Communion of saints, a matter of profound significance in the dark, is sheer tautology in the light.
"A cool balanced statement of this kind cannot produce any rapture or ecstatic feeling. But it does explain in formal terms the condition which some men have reached by intense meditation, rigorous bodily mortification, and complete abasement of worldly lusts and ambitions, often allied with unusual personal ability. The final end of all such strivings has been unitive rest in the real. When that end was attained the consequent reaction was overwhelming. Such is the ultimate reward of the enduring spirit. It is genuine and well-earned. It is secured by effort of the highest. When it has been experienced, life in, the world becomes illumined by rays from the real and the horizon sheds a brightness of peculiar brilliancy.
"Nevertheless the mystic's way is not our way and cannot help us in our investigation. For mystics strive to subdue time and space by a tour de force and then try to face the real in 'a condition seriously dishevelled by the effort. Exhaustion is too often the peace that is gained in this way. Weariness too frequently leads to contentment with ideas drawn from ready-made religion that are essentially antagonistic to the peace, passing understanding. I write here as one who has retained his reason after tempting sallies in these directions." If the ultimate end of all human striving towards the highest has been More clearly expressed, with profounder wisdom or more penetrative insight I have not found the passage in any scriptures, ancient or modern.
In the following excerpt from For To-day, Weir deals with finance in its deeper aspect: "Many years ago I decided that money must be treated as a mystery of life. The events of the last decade have convinced the dullest minds that this fact must be accepted in any scheme for increasing social welfare. Only a few bright intelligences believe that money is an agent to be managed. For our present purpose the duller view will serve to guide conduct to the attainment of independence and sufficiency. For if money be regarded as a mystery, to be treated with due scruple and honest dealing, no person will fail to live by contributing purchasing value to the common stock. But if money is played with as a counter for gambling, or as a lever to force human exertion into ways prescribed by agitators of society, the private person becomes uncertain of his own sufficiency and soon loses his power to preserve his independence."
Chimeras about the perfectability of civilization are swept ruthlessly away. "Energy is wasted and discontent is occasioned by the delusion that society would be made perfect if only the right measures were taken. The truth is that imperfections may be modified and sometimes changed for new ones. And we shall do well to consider how this process may be worked to our general benefit. . . . 'We belong to a race,' says St. Augustine, 'curious to know the lives of others, slothful to amend our own.'" (Others.)
There is a passage in Shallows and Deeps which all who value spiritual things will do' well to ponder. It runs as follows: "For the common mind religion has always been a matter of strife and exertion. . . . The strife and discord characteristic of religious fervour is the very mood which would inhibit access from the unconscious. Our quest must be conducted in complete indifference to any spectacular, events in the world around us."
From a certain note in this book it might be supposed that I am a disciple of Archibald Weir.. I am a disciple of no one, preferring to seek truth wherever I discern it. In the East they have a saying: "Where there is no Buddha hurry on, and where there is a Buddha, do not linger." The paradox would certainly have been approved by Weir, who wrote: "I do not seek to formulate tenets or to make disciples. The intent of these books would be frustrated entirely if any such success were obtained among their readers. All that I can wish to offer is assistance to earnest minds in the effort to think for themselves–in an age when settled convictions and traditional principles are disappearing and the language of professional philosophers is riddled by covert assumptions. To avoid catchwords is the first aim of independent thinking."
The value of Archibald Weir's books lies not only in their subtlety and profundity of thought but also in their sincerity and integrity. It may be said of him as it may be said of Emerson, he did not write a sentence which he did not know to be true. Such a statement implies not only integrity of thought but also integrity of life. It is impossible to live an average life and to be visited by divine thoughts. The gods do not bestow their gifts capriciously. The worst use to which Archibald Weir's teaching can be put is to intellectualize and argue about it. This is the use to which most scriptures are put and the result in the affairs of men is obvious.
The eager, intellectual reader might dip into Weir's books and decide that here is nothing of first rate significance, nothing intrinsically new, no cleverly spun thought-system to yield a crop for the lecturing professor or the examinations board. He might object; but I have known all this from my youth up. For such Weir did not write nor will they find their minds clarified by reading him. Emptiness (a condition which the vile dread) is the cardinal necessity before one can be filled.