THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 6, April, 1933
(Pages 241-244; Size: 12K)
(Number 6 of a 12-part series)
[Compiler's Note: All 12 articles have the same name.]
THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
PERCEPTION, inference, and testimony are declared by the ancient teachers to be the means of knowledge, whether fallible or infallible.
No doubt it appears strange for knowledge to be spoken of as infallible -- an attribute or quality denied to man, as much by the theologian as by the materialist despite the dogmatisms of both which rest upon the assumption of their own infallibility. A little examination discloses that everyone has the innate capacity for self-evident Truth -- a species of knowledge wholly independent of inference or evidence. Truths so perceived are called axioms. But the range of direct perception is far greater, even in the ordinary man, than is usually recognized or admitted. To put the matter in a single statement: every man has infallible knowledge of effects. If a man experience pleasure or pain, or any other of the "pairs of opposites" he has instant, infallible knowledge of the fact which no reasoning can alter, no testimony affect.
The fact puts beyond question that there exists in man a power or principle or element as entirely beyond reason as reason is beyond the senses. Sense-perception, reasoning perception, direct-perception, are but themselves the three aspects of perception-proper -- the power to know. Although they exist and are operative either independently, in conjunction, or as a unit, they represent fundamentally no thing in itself, but simply the potency resident in the Soul -- the Knower, who may, or may not, exercise his innate self-generative power to know through either or all of the means named.
Genuine Occultism is concerned of necessity with pure psychology -- the study of the Soul and its innate powers; experimentation with those powers through the three channels of perception; the unification of the results achieved. This unification constitutes Self-realization, or conscious immortality for the individual Ego or Soul.
Observing mankind at large it is evident that now as always men believe in the Soul and its powers, but regard both as a possession which may be gained or lost, which may be granted or withdrawn by some sovereign or superior Power or Being. That man is a Soul of a certain order in evolution or becoming, that all men, all beings, all things, are fundamentally Soul and Spirit ever-evolving under the rule of Law inherent in the whole -- all this is outside the sphere of active inquiry engaged in by most minds. They are content for the most part to be absorbed in their experience of the pairs of opposites and to employ their soul-powers in the vain effort to be permanently embodied in their fulfilled desires. Thus their meditation and concentration, their use of their soul-powers, endlessly reproduces the "Cycle of Incarnation (or 'Necessity')" -- not that emancipation for which they long in their inmost being. Human existence as acted out by most men is a long-drawn series of impermanent experiences -- impermanent because yielding only a partial self-realization. Few, indeed, as yet of the Souls named men endeavor to make of their human existence "a subject for grave experiment and experience."
Thus human self-realization is relative, alternating, a certain disappointment to the Soul. All our knowledge of life when looked at face to face with the eye of reason can only lead to the inference or conclusion that it is worthless and that as a choice between evils it is better not to be than to go on living. Many men in every generation, thrown back upon themselves by the violence of their experiences, do in fact reach this conclusion, and so commit suicide. In the world of the mind this is the logical because the natural reaction of the conscious or unconscious maxim of pure Materialism: dum vivimus vivamus -- while we live, let us live. Having done their maximum of violence to Nature in pursuance of this doctrine, it is inevitable that they should compensate her disturbed equilibrium by this supreme violence upon themselves. Materialism is for the animal-soul, which as yet lacks reason, and for which the testimony of the senses is the controlling source of self-realization, as reason is the dominating principle in the final self-realization of the suicide that his life has been lived in vain.
The average man, being governed wholly neither by his senses nor his reason but by the alternations between the two, seldom or never reaches the climactic possibilities of either pole of human life. It is only at long intervals when the sum-totals amassed by its constituent units produce an overwhelming race-influence on individual human-Souls that hedonism prevails, to be followed by its corresponding polar opposite, satiety. Thus the death of a nation, of a civilization, is, in all too many cases, race-suicide. Apart from the moral factor involved in the use of the word suicide, who can doubt that genuinely natural death is extremely rare, whether among individuals or in the case of civilizations? How rare is such natural death, and what does the fact signify?
It is as rare as natural birth, or natural life -- so rare that all three have ceased to be except in the region of ideals. And ideals pertain not, either to the life of sense or the life of reason. Perhaps this word itself may give us a clue to what is natural, whether to man or to any other of the hosts of Souls. For, rightly considered, all actions of every kind are the pursuit by Soul of an ideal consciously or unconsciously perceived and held. From this point of view the three terms meditation, concentration, will, refer and relate to the Soul in its internal state of being far more than to any species of its activities. It is in the distinctions of these internal states far more than in actions or in forms that lie all true gradations and degrees in the evolution of Souls, or Orders of beings. All perceivable differences are but manifestations of this internal condition of the Perceiver. The Soul exists in a changing round of physical and mental activities, but it lives in the unchanging world of its ideals, from which proceed and into which return the never-ending stream of its conditional existences, whether on the human or any other plane. Any and all of these do but represent the effort of Soul to realize its own ideals.
Since the principle of infallibility unquestionably resides in man as in all the rest of nature, and manifests its universal as well as unique characteristic quality in every individual from time to time, it must be as responsive to experimental study as any other constituent element of being. Why should any man rest content with fallible, relative, transient knowledge, with partial and disappointing experiences in Self-realization, when all the time those very experiences are merely the phenomenal evidence for reasoned inference from another point of view altogether -- that of direct perception itself? No man can assign any reason why our perception of Causes should not be as immediate, as continuous, as inclusive, as infallible, as our perception of Effects. The two should go together as indissolubly as cause and effect are one and inseverable -- a perception that itself is direct, not based either on inference from reasoning or testimony from sense.
To regard its occasional manifestation, independently of our reason and our senses, as the infallible principle of intuition itself is the "ignorance" or misconception from which all the rest of our misguided and misspent energies flow. This shuts the man out from any possibility of Soul -- or Self-knowledge. Not until our attention -- our meditation, concentration, and will -- are turned inward toward the very centre of our own inmost being, and fixed upon Self and its ideal, upon Nature and its Law, can reason have its natural and spiritual employment. Turned upon sense-existence, reason at last leads to self-destruction as the only logical outcome of such prostitution. It is the only logical inference from such unnatural thralldom. Turned upon the Soul and its ideal, reason at once begins faithfully to serve both, as now it subserves merely the transitory sense-existence of the embodied Soul. Reason in the ordinary man is the slave of his sense-impressions. In the best of men it is the servant of his ideals -- religious, philosophical, or scientific. In the pursuit of Self-knowledge, the highest as the lowest faculties and powers are used for one purpose only -- that of the evolution of the Soul.
The work of Occultism, then, begins and ends, as it is carried on, in the "secrecy and silence" of one's own Soul. Ideals standing to action, whether of mind or body, as cause to effect, it is self-evident that the first task of the neophyte is the use of his power of direct perception, or Buddhi as an active principle, on his own ideal and ideals. Are they the highest and noblest within his range of perception and conception? Is he at all times consciously engaged in efforts to realize them? If not, why not?
At once he sees, beyond possibility of error, on both sides of human life. And what he sees is enough to appal the stoutest heart -- will appal it, exactly to the extent that self-interest is present in his will to perceive Truth, exactly to the degree that he has hitherto debased his Soul-powers through "ignorance." He falls back, and has recourse to his principles of reason, or Manas. If now he use it as he has before employed it, he is lost, and suicide is his only refuge -- a refuge as drastically purgative as has been his former misuse of this principle. If, haply and happily, he returns yet again to the plane of Buddhi, and looks at Self in its divine Light, he will receive inspiration as well as intuition, the faith to "will, to dare, and to keep silent" in the presence of the world of Soul-knowledge. To persist in this reliance on Soul-perception is to bring about the conjunction of Buddhi and Manas --reason and intuition.
THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
(Part 7 of a 12-part series)
"THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".