THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 7, May, 1933
(Pages 316-319; Size: 12K)
(Number 7 of a 12-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 12 articles have the same name.]

THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE

ALL men inspect actively and continuously, and as well in retrospect and prospect, their own conduct and that of others. By this attention their actions are for the most part guided, and themselves unconsciously controlled by their own reactions to such conduct. Various names are given to these reactions, as feeling and thought, memory and anticipation, desire and aversion, and so on.

There is an immediate process of metempsychosis and transformation constantly in evidence in this metamorphosis of sense-impressions into psychical, and the reverse. The "connecting bond" is motion, action, the transfusion of the physical into the metaphysical, and vice versa. It is beyond question the visible "missing link" in the evolution of matter as well as of mind -- as both are experienced by all forms of embodied being, inorganic as well as organic. And this motion is, within the range of our perceptions, absolute, that is, confirmed by all three channels of experience. Equally it is universal, confirmed both by our sense -- and mental -- impressions. Finally, it is individual to every form of force and matter, thus constituting the characteristic qualities and conduct of both.

Were there any "impassable gulf" between force and matter, between both and mind, or did the Soul exist apart from all three, no evolution were possible in any sense. The Unity of all in nature is the perpetual establishment or foundation of all interaction of every kind. The direct perception by Soul of this Unity in its individual manifestation is the Self-consciousness with which we are familiar. We "see" that we are, one and indivisible within the ever-changing world in which we live; but we do not "listen", to learn if we see Self in any more completeness than we perceive the rest of nature round about us, permeating us, our womb and our grave, our "house of life," which to the best of men is a prison and not a home. Thus each man exists in "solitary confinement," watched and warded at every avenue of entrance and exit. Every form of life, so far as we are aware at all, exists under similar duress. So, each man strives incessantly for a means of escape from the conditions in which he exists. He is blind and deaf to the most obvious facts of his own Being, as to the same facts in all other Orders of being with which he is in contact.

He has but to look in order to see that others are struggling to reach the very conditions from which he is striving to escape; that others still are in the very condition he longs to achieve, and manifestly no more content with their own lot in life than he in his. He has but to look further afield to see that what is true of him and of other men is equally true of all animate and inanimate things, all visible and invisible objects in nature. He has but to use the "eye of reason" to see that the whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life; that there is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces, active life in the seemingly most inert material; that "evolution" is the ever-becoming process of all forms of Life.

The same eye of pure reason -- i.e., reason divorced from attention to particulars -- may then be found capable of being as closely related to the world of causes as to the field of effects. It is, in fact, such use of intellection that has given us all that we have of stable knowledge in every department of nature. Why should this use not prove equally fruitful when turned upon the subject of Self as the source of all causes, the experiencer of all effects -- upon SELF as the Knower?

By the use of reason man has learned the prevalence of Law in nature inanimate as well as animate, in nature invisible as well as visible, in the field of natural forces as well as in the ocean of matter in all its states and forms. By its use he has learned the fact metaphysical of the inter-relation and inter-action of everything in nature with every other, from the most concrete to the utmost abstractions of which the human mind is capable. Finally, by pure reason alone any man can see that with all this, Nature still remains incomplete, its self-sustaining efficiency still unaccounted for; that man still remains dissatisfied, because, after this imaginable conquest of all nature, he can still neither account for nature nor for himself.

Many men have reached this point in their individual "evolution," and almost invariably have had recourse either to "speculative science," which by its very nature is neither science nor speculation per se; or to "revelation," which as all experience testifies, does actually reveal nothing except its own insufficiency to explain itself, and the inability of its recipients to understand it. What is the real explanation of this futility both of "exact science" and of "infallible revelation" in attempting to deal with teleology -- with "finalities"? It can only be because they have omitted the supreme fact from their conceptions, the supreme factor from their calculations; and so, both their reasoning and their revelation can only lead them to some Sargasso sea of fixed convictions where they either remain inert or sail in slow and painful circles which lead nowhither and can only end where they began -- in "ignorance" or misconception.

This supreme fact being "seen" by the eye of pure reason, the natural question arises spontaneously within the man who has proceeded thus far in his experiences or "evolution." What is the meaning of this fact? What use can be made of it as the factor in the solution of "the riddle of existence?" It is precisely here that the greatest minds make their initial error. They at once attempt to measure this fact, to analyze it, in terms of ideative or sense evaluations, and so unconsciously revert to the familiar employment of reason in its subordinated relation to inference and evidence -- they make their reason subject to relativities once more, instead of the servant of the supreme factor in all evolution -- the eye of wisdom, direct perception. Thus they are once more victimized by the lower use of Manas at the very instant when they might employ it in its higher relation, through which alone can any man ever hope to penetrate into the depths of the all-pervading Absoluteness.

Yet, having "seen", if these great men and minds had "listened", is it unreasonable to affirm that it is within the bounds of possibility they might have learned to view the old familiar worlds of sense, and of thought, will, and feeling, with an altogether new insight -- a revelation indeed, in time to become a science? The mere recognition of failure in all the familiar directions must, from the basis of pure reason, either allure the Soul to start from an altogether new basis, or discourage it utterly from any further attempt to explore the "unknowable." The latter is the present-day attitude of the leading minds in both science and theology, in both philosophy and metaphysics. And who dare say, in the providence of nature or Karma, that they have not chosen wisely in thus foregoing a task admittedly beyond their strength? "Their time has not yet come."

The "eye of wisdom" is not for them, for it has not yet opened. But here and there, adown the ages, there have been those pioneers of mankind in Soul-evolution who have "listened" to the voice of experience itself in another sense, and hence have derived the sure faith or conviction that there is no impassable gulf separating the known from the unknown -- that the unknown is not necessarily the unknowable. They see that all that is now known was once unknown; that all knowledge is but the extension of the known into the region of the unknown -- the individual resultant of one's own innate power of perception and action, however employed. By this seeing, and the question naturally arising from it, they perceive that no imaginable extension of relative knowledge can ever lead to the comprehension of that absolute and final mystery of the existence of nature -- being itself. They see that the Absolute must of necessity contain all relativities, all "pairs of opposites," no more concerned with or affected by them than Space is concerned in or affected by the presence or absence of objects of any kind. Dare they concern themselves with that Absolute Itself by turning their inherent power of direct perception away from all relativities and concentrating it upon the Unknown in Nature and in Self as one and indivisible?

"Samvritti," or relative knowledge, as declared by H. P. Blavatsky, "is the origin of all the world's delusions." The physical senses, bodily or astral, can never yield more than the knowledge of effects. The "eye of reason" can in no eventuality ever give anyone more than the knowledge of causes, whether as relative to effects or as a relative to Self. Its use as related to causes and effects is Mind as we know it; and as related to Self is based on the misconception that the Soul of each man is fundamentally separate from the souls of all other men, beings and things in nature, though in communication and contact with them. All this is but the relative perception of Self, the "lower Manas," the "Personality" which we take to be the finality, whereas it is but the beginning, the seed, the germ of SELF-Knowledge.

If the "eye of Wisdom" is turned to the direct perception of Self, even for an instant, all relativities cease to exist in the spaceless Light of the Soul, as absolutely as they are blotted out to the eye of sense by complete darkness, or to the eye of reason by sensation. It is in this Light that the Masters of Wisdom live, and move, and have Their being, while yet existent, active, participant, in the life of the world and in the life of mankind.


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