The Hidden treasures of the ancient Qabalah (2)
The Peace That Passeth Understanding
For only they who in full completeness
THE PEACE THAT PASSETH UNDERSTANDING
Saint Augustine was one of those few Church Fathers gifted with the true vision. One of his beautiful sayings is to the effect that "Our hearts shall ever be restless until they find rest in God." In the course of out journey through life we try to assuage our pain by many things. We plunge into work and think that will make us forget the dreariness of our existence, but, failing to find satisfaction in work, we try pleasure, and naturally that, too, is disappointing—even more so. And so again we try mental culture, but with no greater success, and then we despair and begin to wonder whether there are such things as peace and contentment to be found in this valley of tears we call earth. Despair is generally a forerunner of better things, and when a man is good
enough to despair of himself, it shows there is still something left in him worth tribulation. This something begins to show its vitality when it alone, of all things, has been left. Tolstoy says that man's worth to the community where he lives and to the world in general, dates from the day on which he knows himself to be worthless—when he loses all, he gains all. To the seekers of peace something similar happens. Peace is a plant which grows in the desert of our inner nature only. When everything has become like a desert, when everything has been dried up, even our tears, when we can no longer cry, and the very flower of life has faded, then Peace germinates in the parched soil of the desolate heart; and, just like the fair flowers in the garden, our lives begin to emanate their sweetest fragrance when we are bruised and wilted and altogether trodden down. This applies to the occult life especially; the occult life—the one we have to live in this world, surrounded by its hardships and cares. Our every relation to people and environment
is indicative of our occult status. The circumstances are our teachers and, if we do not learn from them, our life has been lived in vain.
Just look at the rose, and its form and color, the fine lovely texture of its petals and its sweet aroma. It is only because the sweet spirit that animates it knew how to adapt itself to its environment and to attract all that was needful for its growth and perfection, that the rose became what it is. The same law holds good on the human plane. Let us be like the spirit of the rose and we, too, shall dispense the benediction of our qualities to all that pass by. Those who seek peace must vibrate it themselves. But peace cannot be found before its time, for it must be borne in mind that for long periods during our evolution strife and stress are necessary. When, however, the time arrives for the soul of man to rest from her toils, there enters the heart a kind of rhythm which we call peace.
Peace is to the heart what rhythm is to matter; even in the physical organism, a
kind of rhythmic peace must obtain. The soul's atoms are mingled with other lower atoms, but never combined. An illustration from chemistry will help us to understand this clearly:
Oxygen in pure air is mixed, but not combined, with nitrogen. When these two gases are combined, according to their proportions, the result is a deadly poison. This is exactly the internal process. When the atoms of the various parts are mingled harmoniously, the result is physical and spiritual well-being; when discord ruptures the rhythm of their vibrations and their harmonious balance, disintegration sets in and disease results.
If matter moves rhythmically, it is pleasing to our eyes, and our feeling on beholding it is a restful one. In the heart of man peace fulfills the same functions. Without it nothing of worth can be accomplished by man; while to the peaceful soul all things are possible.
The mistake modern intellectualism makes is in believing that the brain is the
real agent in all important work; the serious observer of life knows this to be a fallacy. The brain is not the important part of the house in which man resides. The centre of life is the heart, and, if consciousness does not take its residence in the centre of life, it will become separate from life and cease to be. Those who desire to develop spiritually must think with their hearts.
Man is a constellation of powers in which all kinds of seeds are contained. The heart is the seat of the central power from which all the others derive their vitality and inspiration. That they may live and function properly, the central power must be at peace with itself and with each one of them. When this is the case, peace reigns supreme and registers itself in the countenance by an attractive angelic radiance. Kindliness and peacefulness always produce beauty and give the face a touch of heaven, for beauty is the light of the soul reflected in the forms of matter.
All of us have at one time or another met people who were a perpetual mystery to us,
owing to their constant and changeless calm. Nothing seemed to ruffle them; they took everything just as it happened, and everybody just as he was. They seemed to desire no change and no variation of anything. They were the people who have discovered the secret of peace. As long as "man's inhumanity to man makes countless millions mourn," that peace is beyond attainment for the majority of the race. When the Sun of righteousness arises some day and man realizes the unity of all that lives and breathes, peace will be his. At present it must be won by a prayer of the individual soul, who feels sorely in need of it. There are thousands of such souls everywhere, and to them the message from on High has come down, "Call upon me and I will answer thee, and I will show thee great and mighty things, and I will heal thee and give thee an abundance of truth and peace."
True prayer has a scientific basis; its effect is as certain as that of any other cause in nature. Let us pray for peace and we shall obtain it, even in the midst of stress
and storm. When it enters our hearts, we shall know it by the feeling of reconciliation with which it will suffuse our whole being. After that we shall rebel against nothing. For God is enough, and his abiding presence in the soul of man makes her desire naught else.
Thus in the silence which follows the storm the precious jewel is found. At last the harassed soul is at rest and, self-contained, wishes for nothing outside herself. She has found the peace of God, the peace which the world cannot give, neither can it take it away; the peace which passeth all understanding.
Justice and Mercy
And enter not into judgment with us, for in thy sight no living man shall be justified.
JUSTICE AND MERCY
When does one become a Master? When one has learned all the lessons that earth has to teach. How does one learn all these lessons? By submitting to all the experiences natural to this sphere without repulsion when they are painful and without attachment when they seem to be pleasant. Thus, taking things as they are, and letting them all deliver their message, the period of schooling is shortened for the disciple, and his entrance upon the higher stages of the path begins earlier than would have been the case, had he allowed the various qualities of his constitution, called Gunas in the East, to play havoc with his desire nature or to otherwise detain him. There is a saying, "When the disciple is ready, the Master is ready also." When the disciple is ready means that he has arrived at a stage when
he can listen to that voice which has bee&. called "the Voice of the Silence," because: we only hear it when we have passed through the silence and accustomed ourselves to live and move and have our being in it.
The first four rules of Light on the Path show us how to pass through the Silence safely. The rule we shall consider tonight is the third. "Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Master it must have lost the power to wound." There is a little story of an old Rabbi, a great teacher of the Qabalah, whose first few words when arising in the morning were, "Heavenly Father, may I during this day and until I again close my eyes in sleep not be made the instrument of judgment against any brother or sister of mine." At first sight it seems as if this is just a common prayer for help from outside, but it is not. Its scientific foundation is the same as the one underlying the precepts in the hall of learning which, as you know, are all truths founded in Nature. In our earlier days, when we
used to pray in the old-fashioned manner. the object of our prayers appeared to be to make us good, but later on when we learned to know the true inwardness of things and the purpose of human life, we found that many a thing which sounded as a religious threat was, in reality, a statement of fact inherent in the nature of things. Now, when the Master Hilarion caused to be written down this rule, that "before we can speak in the presence of the Great Ones our voices must lose their power to wound," he did not mean to give us a good bit of advice, with a promise attached to it—that if we are good the Masters will listen to us. No more did the old Rabbi mean anything of this sort. The idea both had in mind is the everlasting truth written in the very heart of the cosmic law. That law determines that on every plane units shall be used for the improvement of their species. We see this law governing the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, but it generally escapes our attention that it also holds good in the human kingdom. Nature in her vast
domains uses individuals and entities to further the growth of the collective bodies of which they are the units. Continual progress is nature's aim, and, on the human plane, she achieves it by making every man his brother's keeper. The feeling of repulsion which we experience at a wrong or careless act of a fellow-man is Nature's safeguard against the recurrence of a similar act. She put us where we are in order to eliminate the possibilities of wrong-doing. But now, there are various ways and means of achieving that end. Punishment is one way and instruction is another. On the lower mental level, reaction is so quick and violent that it punishes both the wrong-doer and him who is the witness of wrong-doing, but, on the higher mental level and on the planes beyond it, where the spiritual consciousness is wide-awake, reaction is of a reflective and deliberate character and can select the mode of its response to any form of discordant action. This principle was known to the sages and teachers of the past, but the cycle of evolution did not
admit of its universal application. In this century, however, we find it percolating slowly the social conscience, so that even in state-prisons it is found to be better policy to make the confinement of prisoners remedial, rather than vindictive. Now, we as students of the Wisdom-Religion, realize that there must be an exact correspondence of these happenings on the outer plane, within the interior regions of our collective soul life, of which our social structure is but a temporary and transient expression. We see Nature using us individuals as instruments to carry out her behests and while so doing refining both instrument and materials. On the plane on which those we call Masters work, there is no room for violence or for anything like it. Correction there is, by means of loving instruction only. Now, as the Theosophical Society is, so to say, the training-ground for future disciples, those who watch over it find it necessary from time to time to communicate to us some of the rules governing life on those exalted planes. "Light on the Path"
is such a communication, and the rule we are now considering is the one destined to regulate the relations between individuals aspiring to follow in the footsteps of those Holy Teachers who have learned all their lessons in past æons of evolution.
Now, apart from the reaction to wrong, which takes actual form by punishment, there is a finer and subtler mode of reaction known as criticism or judgment. To have lost the power to wound, our capacity to criticise and judge must have undergone the same change as the social custom of punishing crime is gradually undergoing. Our very way of looking at things must change. To students of Theosophy this should be easier than to those ignorant of the Ancient Wisdom. We, who know that the personal life is an illusion and that this whole existence is simply Maya, created by Nature in order to evolve the true self, should not find it hard to see that the tendency to wound, whether it be by thought, or word, or deed, is one of the deceptions practiced upon us by external nature, prior to the
awakening of our true selves. It is she who makes us resent wrong and repel the wrongdoer. Our True Self knows no resentment and is free from repulsion. In days to come it will be as uncommon to criticise a spiritual failing as it is today to criticise a physical one. Even at the present time, well-brought-up children would not laugh at a blind man, or at a lame one, nor would they make fun of the deaf and dumb; and yet, does it ever occur to us that, whatever the misbehavior, crime or vice of a fellowman may be, if it awakens in us any other feeling than love and pity it is because we are not yet well-brought-up children on the plane of spirit. When the Sixth Root Race arrives there will probably be hospitals for criminals and nursing homes for vicious people, and they will all be treated with the same loving care as we now treat those who are sick in body. It is to prepare us for this stage that "Light on the Path" has been given to us. "Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Masters it must have lost the power to wound." To realize
this rule in its fulness means to be free from the tyranny of Nature, and, instead of being unconscious instruments in her hands to chastise and to give pain, we become teachers and helpers and healers, and exercise mercy instead of judgment.
Every time we are called upon to act, we are faced by our trial, and it depends upon our attitude whether the doors to further progress shall be opened to us.
The first of the vestures we have to lay down at the entrance to the temple is that innate tendency to judge and to criticise, because it is a loveless proclivity of the old Adam, and within the temple there is no room for that which is loveless. Therefore the great Masters of the Inner Wisdom warned us that before our voice can be raised in their presence it must have lost the power to wound. As long as it wounds, man cannot teach, neither can he help. Those who wish to become helpers of the race must not be instruments of judgment, and that is why the old Rabbi, the teacher of the Kabala, prayed every morning immediately
after rising, "Heavenly Father, may I during this day and until I again close my eyes in sleep, not be made the instrument of judgment against any brother or sister of mine."
On the Threshold of the Sanctuary
I know not where his islands lift
ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE SANCTUARY
"Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Master she must have been washed in the blood of the heart." The blood of the heart is, as we know, the life-essence and for the soul to have been washed therein means that life and all that belongs to it of joy and sorrow has been relegated to a secondary place and that the foremost consideration of that soul is now the will of her Lord who has been revealed to her in the process of surrender. It is during this process of bathing in the life-essence that the soul discovers some one, whom alone she would like to serve. During the years of our indiscretion, while we are driven hither and thither by our various likes and dislikes, we serve many Masters, who often prove veritable tyrants to us, but when we have had enough of them, we find that there
is a Master of a different stamp, who lives not by our passions and desires, but rather by their suppression and subdual. Now before the soul has made this discovery, it is of no use for her to aspire to the true Masters' presence. In fact, it may harm her to venture thus far. We often find among seekers after truth, persons who have overstrained themselves in one way or another and made themselves physical and mental wrecks in their effort to find and live the higher life. The reason for this is their disregard of the advice given to occultists by all the great and good ones in respect to the dangers of the razor-edged path. You remember how H. P. B., in the "Voice of Silence," admonishes us to see to it that the ladder does not give way while we ascend its rungs.
The rungs of the ladder on which we climb upward are our weaknesses and bodily failings. To overcome these is our first task before we enter the outer court of the temple. To enter into the Holy of Holies with the old desires clinging to us, spells
disaster. No truly-great teacher will accept a pupil who does not seek, by renunciation and by devotion to prove himself worthy of the wisdom which he is striving to attain. In the Gita we are told that no one is to be taught the higher truths who does not practice Tapas, which means renunciation of all that is of the earth earthy. In the Upanishads too, great stress is laid upon self-control, and the great Yogis of the East have at all times been ascetics first and disciples afterwards.
To stand in the presence of the Master implies to he a channel to their sublime teachings, but how can one serve as a channel who has not been purified? You would not think of drinking water that runs through an unclean pipe, for fear of its having been contaminated. No more can one benefit by a spiritual channel which is not thoroughly clean, for fear of the impurities that may have found their way into it during the process of transmission.
The blood of the heart symbolizes the passions of the earthly man, and, in their
control and final extinction, lies the secret of regeneration. The Path of Discipleship is strewn with many wrecks on account of the failure to heed the warnings of our ancient teachers who told us of the many pitfalls on the way. The Master Hilarion, who inspired The Light of the Path and who occupies a high rank in the great Hierarchy, had probably unique opportunities to study the ways and means that best secure and shorten the passage to the other shore. From his exalted position, he could observe those who succeeded and those who failed and he also saw the reason why. In this gem of occult literature, called Light of the Path, he gives us the benefit of his experiences. If we value our higher life we should not neglect so expert an advice as that of Master Hilarion. That which troubles us most in treading the Path is our habit of compromise. We are not whole-hearted and generally do things by halves, the result being that, whenever we enter upon the higher stages of advancement, we find many things to be undone and many a habit to be broken.
In those high altitudes the lightest discord creates wrong vibrations which baffle the young soul just emerging from the Egyptian darkness and not only bar her way to further progress but often throw her back into the abyss of repeated incarnations in matter. This is not a figurative mode of illustration, but a statement of actual fact.
There are two passages in The Outer Court to which I would like to call your special attention. Here is the first: "When once a soul has passed through the gateway of the Temple, she goeth out no more." The other passage is a quotation from the Upanishads. It says, "If a man would find his soul, the first thing to do is to cease from evil ways."
Now these two passages are complementary to each other, as you will see presently. First, what does it mean "When a man enters the Temple he goeth out no more." Well, it is this: If we pledge ourselves to service and enter the Path, there can never be any withdrawal without utter destruction of mind and body. The higher forces
which we contact on entering the Path cannot he played with, any more than you can play with fire. If we present ourselves to the Guardians of these powers as servants, it is against the law to release us from our pledge. Therefore the disciple used to he exhorted in olden times before taking his vow, and terrible ordeals were imposed upon him prior to his initiation.
Now turning to the other passage, "To cease from evil ways": Well, what is evil? And what are evil ways? There are many things which the man in the street would consider quite harmless, and yet to the disciple they are harmful. It is this difference that must be borne in mind. For the disciple to cease from evil ways means to refrain from every act (and thought is an act, let us well remember) which has not the absolute approval of the Higher Self. If the desire-nature and the mind have been so trained as to respond to every command of the Lord within, and if love has become the supreme Sovereign, ruling in the heart of the disciple, then may he pledge himself
without fear of falling back, for then only can he be sure to have ceased from evil ways. There is a stage in the disciple's life which merits our special attention. It is the period of the great trial of his faith. At this stage the law of affinity makes itself felt. This well-known law which governs the mineral world holds good in the spiritual life of man. The affinities that bind atom to atom in the mineral world govern also the association of thoughts and ideas. If we try to cast aside the habits of a lifetime, as we generally do on entering the Path, then this law of affinity, which lies latent in our subconscious nature, suddenly rises against us and binds us to those tendencies which have grown up within us throughout the innumerable lives of the past. The disciple's task, having to face this opposition, is to fortify himself in his inner stronghold, and to exercise all the Divine patience of which he may be capable, in liberating himself by short degrees from the chains which he himself has forged. The quality most needful in this
struggle is sweet patience. There may be failure to attain the ideal; usually there will be many failures, for even in the higher altitudes of spiritual endeavor there cannot be uninterrupted progress. You remember it is said, "Even Great Ones have fallen from the threshold." So there is great need for endurance and persistence, and after every slip and fall the disciple must rise and take heart and, as the Gita tells us, "return to the charge again and again."
Before the soul can stand in the Masters’ presence this battle must have been fought and won. We are of no use to Them until this has been done.
To wash the soul's feet in the blood of the heart means to tear out the old remembrances root and branch, not only to be able to control desire but to have none; not only to look longingly to the great ideal before us, but to be earnestly engaged in its realization. The mystery of the threshold is to be ready; to have our loins girded and our lamps burning awaiting the pleasure of the King and His command. The
soul, which has fitted herself in good time, will find that love's labor has not been lost and that a glorious fruition awaits her on the very threshold of the Temple. But even while preparing for it in this life, the truly-enlightened aspirant finds that it is indeed worth while to obey the vision he has seen, and the calmness and serenity which surrounds him after every conquest are the heralds of the great peace which shall enter his heart when the sublime end has been achieved and the day is at an end. Then the laborer shall find rest and while resting prepare the ground for his future career in cycles yet to come and in worlds yet to be.
We come now to a very important point, one which cannot be sufficiently emphasized, and that is the best ways and means to be adopted by the disciple to minimize the dangers of falling back after the Path has once been entered. There are many books instructing us in this and each of them is good in its own way. The Holy Qabalah teaches us that in most cases the career of incarnate man upon earth is first expiation
and then the acquisition of new experience. Now as to expiation, the lives of many millions of human beings are really nothing more than one long chain of expiation. Think of those masses of toiling, sorrowing, starving people who have never had a chance in their lifetime. What are they here for? But even iii the case of those whose lives are along more pleasant lines, misery is not absent. There are plenty of heart-breaks and sorrows, the causes of which are not always evident to the sufferers. These causes lie generally far back in their former lives upon earth, this present incarnation having for its object the expiation of ancient wrongs. In the case of disciples, this truth of expiation should never be lost sight of, for it supplies a much needed explanation of many otherwise puzzling experiences that advanced students are called upon to endure.
Then there is the second object of incarnation, namely, the acquisition of new experience. This too applies to the disciple, for however detached from earthly things
he may already be, he still may stand in need of some knowledge which can only be gained by his association with the children of men and by the observation of, and participation in, these manifold struggles and labors, incidental to earth-life. It is right here that he learns to be in the world but not of it.
Now before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters, this ordeal of expiation and atonement must have been gone through. The blood of the heart in which the Soul's feet are to be washed is just this painful process of atoning for all the wrongs of days gone by. Thus the soul pays back the uttermost farthing, as all souls must do, and learns to identify herself with all that breathes and lives. No matter how humble and lowly a human creature may be, no matter how sinful and weak, the disciple who has learned his lessons aright knows all these creatures to be parts of the Great Divine Love to whom they are
just as dear as he himself. Thus the Qabalah tells us that by learning
this last lesson of identification with high and low, the disciple becomes a cooperator with those high intelligences whom we call Masters, and, under Their guidance and with their help, he continues his career, ever upward, and ever onward, until he enters the presence of the Ancient of Ancients, the merciful Teacher of Gods, angels and men.
The Light Eternal According to the Qabalah
The secret Brotherhoods which formed the splendour of Egypt taught that life itself is the great Initiator, and the Qabalah, from which the Wisdom of the Egyptian Hierophants was derived, enjoined upon its students to "store the melody of life in their hearts" and to learn from it all that is needful.
THE LIGHT ETERNAL ACCORDING TO THE QABALAH
The Light Eternal comes from the bosom of God and shines in the eyes of every good man. It illuminates the face and lends a gentle touch to its expression and features. It is wholly absent in the countenance of the ungodly and no effort of theirs will imitate it. It is a gift from the good God to the children of light, and he bestows it upon them as a mark of his special affection.
Blessed be the man in whom this light has been lighted, for he will never lack anything needful, and even the wrath of his enemies will work goad for him. It is the light which the Prophets spoke of, and the Patriarchs desired so very much. It is the priceless pearl which it is well worth while to search after. Seek it, O Man! but not outside thee.
Regeneration According to the Qabalah
For what is a seed but a cylinder on which is registered in photographic script the autobiography of its evolution.
REGENERATION ACCORDING TO THE QABALAH
There is a beautiful passage in the Qabalah which explains the process of regeneration in nature. I cannot quote it verbatim, but it is to the effect that whenever any substance in Nature is to be renewed and regenerated, the negative or chemical force of light assumes the reins and increases the force of repulsion within the atom so that it subdues its opponent—attraction, and the atom is repelled and separated from its neighbour atoms.
When the positive or polar forces of light again asserts its power and increases the attraction, the atom acquires new affinities, and a new substance is formed. This happens to physical-plane atoms and to spiritual-plane ones as well. The thoughtful student will grasp the analogy between the two realms of nature and understand many things suggested so forcibly by this illustration.
Is it not the same with the individual soul when the time arrives for it to renew its substance and to be regenerated? Is not the passionate, impulsive nature, the lustful flesh, wishing to do the things that grieve the Spirit, the very principle of repulsion broken loose and overbalancing the attractive power of the spiritual atom?
What a lesson for us to be kind and patient and forgiving to those in whom sin and sense are still ruling! How it teaches us to see in those who have fallen only our younger brothers and sisters in whom a natural process is going on; yea, sometimes they may he our elders upon whom nature is just putting the finishing touch. As soon as the centripetal power of attraction again asserts itself in them, they may become the Helpers of their kind, Leaders and Benefactors of the race, using their experiences for the good of their unfortunate fellow-brothers and fellow-sisters.