THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 8, June, 1933
(Pages 347-350; Size: 12K)
(Number 8 of a 12-part series)

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

THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE

SPIRITUAL or Monadic, Intellectual or Psychic, Astral or Physical evolution, relate equally to each other because they equally represent the fundamental conditions of Soul-activity or Self-becoming. We constantly lose sight of the facts, (a) that motion or action perpetually is (b) that all action is necessarily on a trinitarian basis; and (c) that "evolution" as necessarily involves three factors. The dream of the religiously devoted is of a purely Spiritual existence; of the materialist, that of a purely physical progress; and of the philosophically-minded, an existence in ideal physical and mental conditions.

These fundamental notions need but to be faced, to be seen for what they are -- a dream of the Souls which create them, which cherish them, which waken from them only under duress of the hard facts of Life as it actually is. Necessarily such an awakening involves the loss of all that one holds dear. It is death indeed when that awakening comes, as it does to many, against their will; and so can but be regarded as the greatest of all evils, for it leaves the Soul stripped of all possessions, denied even the boon of unconsciousness as in ordinary sleep or death. When, however, that awakening comes to the Soul normally, naturally, as it does to one in pursuit of Self-Knowledge, it is not death but a new birth -- birth into the world of the Everlasting. Thenceforth it is human existence which is seen and known to be the dream, Soul-life which is experienced as the reality.

Birth into any world or form, into any state or condition, carries with it its own limitations for the Soul, and this must be as true in the world Spiritual as in any other imaginable sphere of Being, because Being is Self-limitation. Granted that there are various planes of existence, various forms of being, it at once becomes evident that transit from one to the other may be complete or partial; may occur in full or relative consciousness or unconsciousness. Birth, change, and death, waking, dreaming, sleeping, are the evidence that such transitions go on ceaselessly. If the transition is to be complete, the Soul upon entering a new world, a fresh form, must of necessity die to the old and to all its containment; and must be dependent or contingent upon the world it is to enter. In other words, Soul makes the transit alone, devoid of possessions in either world. He who is in pursuit of Self-knowledge must therefore give his allegiance to Soul alone and to the purposes of Soul, not to its possessions of any kind in any world or form or shape or semblance. He "must become as a little child" in the sense that Christ meant it, not as Christians interpret the phrase. If there is re-birth as we know there is birth, then the same law must hold: we come as a "little one" or not at all. Who, possessed with the notion of the reality of human existence; who, in full possession of all that he holds dear in human existence, or who hopes to possess it; who, lacking the "good things of life" and therefore possessed by revolt, despair, or inertia -- who of all these could for a moment lend an ear to the voice of Wisdom?

Even a momentary awakening in the world of Souls destroys forever the firm hold of the "worlds of illusion" which bind humanity at large as completely as the animal kingdom or those still lower in the scale of Becoming are prisoners in their own habitation and occupation. Although all know that to be born into this world implies only viability, and that the babe must not only have the "will to live," but must actively exercise that will continuously, no matter how favorable the environment, or it will fall back out of the world it has entered -- few of those who are born into the world Spiritual but forget over and over again that the law of the inner is the same law as of the outer world. Returned to intellectual or psychic or sense consciousness they endeavor at best to undertake the hopeless task of "reforming" other men who have not yet "seen" what they have seen. This is the religious enthusiast or fanatic. Or they turn to their own intellectual and personal profit whatever memory and energy they have brought back with them. This is not a mistake -- it is treason; and is the path taken by the "Brothers of the Shadow." But none can once have the inner eye opened and revert to indifference or any longer pursue a divided course, a compromise course.

The "reformer" will be constantly thrown back upon himself until compromise is no longer possible. But the misguided zeal to serve humanity by reforming it, is at polar odds from the same zeal utilized to make humanity serve one's self -- as any man can see. The one comes to perceive his own mistake, by virtue of his repeated failure; the other is confirmed in it by virtue of the repeated success achieved. When this is understood there will be no wasted sympathy over the misfortunes of the one, no wasted admiration of the eminence of the other. Each receives in full measure and without intervention the results of his endeavors.

Thrown back upon himself the more starkly by reason of the concentrated violence of his efforts, the reformer who has had the vision of the world Spiritual, takes counsel within himself after failure, and hears the first lesson of the Spiritual life -- that his will must be limited to the subjugation of self, not the subjugation of other Souls. Then begins a struggle that may last for many incarnations, or that may be terminated in an instant. Until it is terminated, the self-chosen candidate is the last to dream of his own election to the Company of the Immortals. Self-restraint, self-discipline, self-denial, self-sacrifice are the law of the Spiritual life -- and this for no earthly, no personal, no selfish object or purpose. And self-interest is far more deeply rooted in the Soul than even the most devout of human beings will ever learn from any religion or religious experience. Driven from one channel of expression, it immediately seeks another outlet. Withheld from overt manifestation, the mind becomes its playground. Deceived as men are, first in their understanding, and second in their use of the various faculties and powers which compose the human consciousness, in no one thing are they so uniformly betrayed as by their motives. The devotee of the Occult, the seeker for Self-knowledge, is not less, but more, the victim of that motive which we call selfishness, or self-interest. Why is this? What is the secret of that paradox, that anomaly, of human consciousness by reason of which and by means of which men commit, in the name of "all that is holy", the very worst of offenses against the law of the Spiritual life?

The fact is there, and terribly evidenced in the history of every religion except that of Buddhism. This history comes to life in the heart of everyone who undertakes to penetrate the Mysteries. The past Karma of the whole human family becomes an active influence, the more it is unrecognized by the individual in his struggles toward living the Higher Life. The Judas, the Peter, the "acts of the apostles" of every creed and of every sectarian, are but parables, allegories, personifying the "probation" of man, who fancies that he is a Seeker and not a self-seeker. Just as the babe in this world knows neither good nor evil, neither wise action nor folly, but has to regain through experience, through precept and example, the worldly sagacity which was his in former bodies -- so in the case of the one born viable into "the other world" without leaving this one. His double consciousness will for long prove a curse and not the blessing he had fondly imagined. For he will alternately endeavor to apply the law of the Spiritual life, as he conceives it, to his human relations, and essay to govern his Spiritual evolution by what he has learned to regard as wise action in human affairs. Meeting the violent reactions of this "confusion of castes" in his outward conduct and in his own mind, his attention, meditation, and concentration are all too apt to be centered on self as self has been regarded by him. He is apt, as stated by Patanjali, to rise by his own efforts only to that final stage of "meditation with a seed" denominated Egoism --where self-consciousness alone is fully awakened. This is actually the permanent "ruling principle" of the Adept of the Left-Hand Path.

Having had the vision of the Higher Self, but having taken the Lower self to be the reality, it is inevitable that when brought face to face with that lower self, as occurs in the state dominated Egoism, the self-seeker will regard it as Self, pure and undefiled. This being thus, and confusion and turmoil unmistakably raging nevertheless throughout the whole sphere of the inner and outer being, it is equally inevitable that the only explanation self can make to self is that the cause of this lamentable condition lies in others, not in one's own self. In the great saint as well as the great conqueror, and, in fact, in the men of all times who have been esteemed "great," it will be found, with, with rare exceptions indeed, that Egotism was their characteristic state and quality, their prevailing and determining basis of conduct. Such men are ever sure of the purity of their own motives, the purity of their own objects; and the evil that they do, when perceived at all, is either attributed to those who oppose them, or regarded as a regrettable necessity incident to their determination to achieve perfect results in an imperfect world. It is a wonderful portrait of this state that is painted in the Mahabharata. There, Duryodhana declares to Krishna, the personified Higher Self, that on inspecting his own motives and conduct he "finds not one minutest fault" in himself. He attributes, therefore, the whole evil of the existing conditions to Arjuna. Arjuna, on the other hand, even after the War has begun, questions his own motives in the presence of the same Krishna.

Do our motives, even in the direction of the very highest that we can vision, issue in fact from the lower or from the Higher Self? Upon the answer each one makes in the secrecy and silence of his own self-communion, depends the outcome of all efforts in the pursuit of Self-knowledge, the nature of the light by which he sees, whether pure, colored, or that Soul-darkening light called "Egoism."


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