THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 5, March, 1933
(Pages 202-205; Size: 13K)
(Number 5 of a 12-part series)
[Compiler's Note: All 12 articles have the same name.]
THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
SELF as the Divinity in all nature; Self as the divining Power in every action or change of any kind; Self as the divine in man -- these are the eternal verities of the Wisdom-Religion, underlying and pervading, originating, storing, and restoring all manifested existence. They represent in thought, as in memory, imagination, and feeling, at once the most abstract and the most concrete potentialities of the human mind.
Merely to regard these great ideas in themselves in the endeavor to see what light they may shed on all the problems of life does in fact immediately arouse unknown elements and principles of being in man. At once a new insight is born naturally into philosophy, religion, and science as embodying not solely and only the fruit of all our efforts to penetrate into the mysteries of the Unknown, but as representative also of the reaction of the Unknown to our struggles for "light, more light." At once a new use of our reason is induced, and the indissoluble correspondence between the Self in nature and the self in man is naturally seen. At once a new ideal of conduct is self-germinated in the human mind, which becomes thenceforth the womb from which the divine life is to come to the "second birth" -- that of the Mahatma, the great Soul, the perfected Being. All this as the immediate result of being thrown back on one's self, or as the consequence of the deliberate determination of the embodied Soul to "return to first principles."
This new conception (for that is what it truly is, in every sense) of the potentialities resident in nature and in man for the evolution of another order of being altogether from any known to us by experience, or pictured by our imagination, is in fact the opening of the second of the Spiritual senses -- that of "hearing," as sight is the first. Everyone is aware that "sight" may be employed metaphysically as well as physically; that these two uses of the power to perceive are not antagonistic, but naturally co-ordinate or co-ordinative, correlative rather than merely casual; polar rather than polarized, and that this polarity resides in the man himself, not in the sense or in its use. Few as yet have given the same attention to the other senses which, in comparison with sight, are dwarfed and stunted because of lack of use. Nevertheless, hearing stands with us second in relative importance to sight, and the experience of deafness is only less as an obstruction to inter-communication than blindness. But with respect to communication between minds it is probable that deafness is even a greater handicap. Certainly it is so, if the feeling aroused is to be taken as competent evidence. Blindness is soon accepted by its victim and by those who contact him. On both sides it induces mental alertness, a moral amelioration, a basis of conduct, sharply at contrast with the case of the deaf man and those who are in relation with him. Why these reversed manifestations should arise, in this and so many other directions, is one of the problems of the inner life which only the pursuit of self-knowledge can solve.
Hearing, in its metaphysical use and meaning, is listening with the mind; it is the effort to learn, to understand through sound and idea. Sight always implies and carries with it the attitude or idea of dissociation, of abstraction, of impersonality. Self often is, but each one intuitively recognizes that it need not be, attached to or involved in what is seen. Because it is the sense most continuously used, sight is both more under our control and more controlling than any of our other physical and metaphysical senses. So long as we are not "fascinated" by any object or subject, our sight is under our control: we may regard or cease to regard, by the slightest exercise of our will. But if the sight awakens what we are accustomed to call our memory and imagination, then the effort to withdraw our attention through that sense becomes difficult indeed.
Hearing, contrary to sight, implies association, some degree of self-interest, of personal concern, and where these are lacking, or not desired, most persons find it extremely difficult to "listen" in the metaphysical sense. But the difficulty in the use and control of hearing is most nearly insurmountable, strange as is the paradox, in those very cases where we "see" the utmost need to "listen." In everyday parlance, who that "desires to learn" and who sees the need of learning, can give his unreserved and undivided attention to the ideative values in the stream of sounds which reach his mind through the medium of hearing? Unless "absorbed" in sound and thence in the ideative images thereby evoked in memory and imagination, the mind incessantly wanders in its attention, from sound to sound, from idea to idea, not only despite our will, but against it. To become, at any given instant, or for any given period, wholly the listener, wholly the learner, wholly the pupil of anyone or anything, implies and requires an action of the will entirely beyond the range of our experience. It remains, to the human being, an abstract possibility in the region of ideals. To be fascinated by sights, to be absorbed in sounds, to the point where we are blind and deaf to all else in the universe and in self, is a common and oft-recurring experience. But to enter into or to discontinue relation through sight and hearing to the point of union or of oblivion, while yet retaining one's own center of consciousness, or sense of Self, undisturbed and undisturbable, necessarily implies a quality of Soul, an understanding of Self and its powers, which men are accustomed to attribute to their God but not to themselves, even in imagination.
The perception of the fundamental Unity of all in nature, of the omnipresent deity or Self, yields the conception naturally that this quality is innate in every Soul; that this understanding is possible to every man; that this eternal poise of the Soul through any and all circumstances and experience is the very source and destiny of every being, the very subject and object of all experience, physical, metaphysical and spiritual. The fact has always been; only the perception of it is new-born to the individual Soul. The realization of the conceived purpose that has hitherto been only a half-glimpsed vision, only a half-heard sound, interpreted in terms of sense and sensation, of physical and mental idols and eidolons -- this realization becomes the object of the will of man. And thereby the third of the Spiritual senses is awakened -- Soul-feeling or intuition.
Just as sight is the awakening of the power to perceive on the plane of the object witnessed, so hearing is the awakening of the power to communicate with the object seen; and touch or feeling is the partial or complete transmission of the nature of each to the other -- with or without fascination or absorption. From this point of view it is easy to see that our arbitrary divisions of subject and object, of seer and seen, of sight and sound, of sensation and ideation, of will and feeling, of Spirit and Matter, are purely and simply terms of polarity where not of relativity -- and that this is the fact throughout the whole range of human consciousness. The "pairs of opposites" of ancient Aryan scriptures circumscribe the sphere of being of every man. They form his horizon inward as well as outwardly, and mark the extremes of his "circle pass-not." Within this "vicious circle" man is born, lives, experiences, dies, goes through his various hells and heavens, and returns again to earth-life, once more to repeat the weary round. The "cycle of reincarnation and karma" as suffered by humanity at large is now assuredly not to be imagined as due to knowledge and will on the part of the Ego or Self. To what, then, is it to be proximately attributed? Not to nescience, as in the case of the animal kingdom and the still less progressed hierarchies of Souls either already imprisoned in matter or on their way "downwards" toward that stage in their spiritual and astral evolution. These are within the magic of the "cycle of necessity" -- or of unconscious Karma, whether called transmigration, metempsychosis, or by any other names. The teaching of the Wisdom-Religion, so far as recorded in ancient scriptures and in modern Theosophy, shows that the lines of spiritual and astral evolution are parallel and concurrent, not in contact save in the sense that fire and fuel may be said to be in contact. What brings them in contact, and where is this contact established?
In man, the human being, the contact is established, and it is the perfected Man, the preter-human being of former periods of evolution who brings this about. For, of the three lines of evolution, it is the intellectual or psychic which runs at right angles to the other two and therefore intersects them both. The correspondence or reciprocal action thus made possible, may be voluntary or involuntary, purely obligatory or an obligation willingly and responsibly incurred.
In man, then, as he is and has been for many millions of years, these three separate schemes of evolution are inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point within his sphere of being. Accordingly as he understands or misunderstands this triune relationship does he produce harmony in his own Soul and induce it in all the elements of his compound existence. That he misconceives and misunderstands the nature of his own Soul, and his interrelations with all souls, is evident on every hand in his misuse of his body, his senses, his mind, and in the discords existing and maintained among all three. This "ignorance" can only be removed by means of Self-knowledge on all three planes of human life.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
FROM A STUDENT'S NOTE-BOOK
Scarcely passes a day but the self-watchful student says or does something that he afterwards regrets. Human nature being what it is just now, and each possessing his own "sample lot" of it, why waste energy and weaken the will by indulging in regrets? Things done are done; words said are said. They cannot be undone; they cannot be unsaid. This lawful fact might be accepted, and better, more constructive doing and saying energized as a result. They will be effective -- re-constructive even -- if heart and will are aroused and put into them. Regret will not summon these handmaidens of right action.
THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
(Part 6 of a 12-part series)
"THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE"
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