We are so apt to expect to be spiritually fed and looked after, to receive instructions which we must follow, that often we miss the very first and most cardinal principle of the spiritual life, namely, that the Path cannot be trodden by any one of us without the inner help which comes to us from our own consciousness; that the Masters can only indicate the Path, but that we have to tread it; that They cannot help us save by pointing out what are the necessary qualifications for the Path. We have to unfold these qualifications. The work has to be done by us. None can help us, not even the Masters; and that is a factor which we sometimes forget. We often have the idea that if we feel within us a willingness to be taught by Them, we will so be taught. This is not so. We have to teach ourselves. To put it in perhaps a slightly exaggerated way, the Masters do not care about teaching us; They want to use us and our capacities for Their work, but most of us are in a condition of mind which is not helpful, because we do not build up a strong individuality. A strong individuality is the first and foremost essential of the spiritual life. If we want to be disciples, we must be strong. No blaster has any use for a child who has to be led and told all the time what he shall or shall not do.
In the teachings of the Buddha, when He was instructing a selected number of disciples, He taught them to relinquish the outer things. He said that ceremonies and rituals are fetters of progress in the spiritual life. If we apply this teaching to things on which we rely in the ordinary life of the world, we find we lean too much, not on high and holy things, but on trivialities which we regard as important. It is this which stands in the way of most of us making rapid progress, because the first is the most difficult step, here as in other matters. To attain to that inner consciousness which says: ”I am going to do it. I am going to find the Master. I am going to make progress in the spiritual life, and no one in earth or heaven can stop me” – that is the first thing necessary.
It is well to read in this connection what H.P.B. has written. If we apply this teaching, we shall see that we have wasted much of our time, have relied too much on outside help, have waited for external orders, oral or written, which have not come and are not going to come. In the spiritual life definite and precise rules cannot be laid down for all. It is not possible. In the old days, when the Teacher took from ten to twelve pupils only, as in Ancient India, it was not possible; far less so now. The spirit of the age is against it. Human beings are too far evolved to receive orders and to carry them out. There are certain hints in this passage of H.P.B.'s which we should think over very carefully and apply to ourselves.
”The first necessary qualification is an unshakable belief in one's own powers and the Deity within oneself, otherwise a man would simply develop into an irresponsible medium.”. The word medium is not to be taken in the ordinary spiritualistic sense, but as meaning a repository of other people's sundry thoughts, emotions and aspirations, instead of developing one's own. We make ourselves largely a storehouse, for other people's ideas and inspirations. What about our own in the light of H.P.B.'s teaching ”an unshakable belief in one's own powers and the Deity within oneself”? We are often in fear and trembling when our instincts and reasonings do not harmonize with other people's instincts and reasonings. Why should they? We have each of us our own peculiar way of growth. We must quit the attitude of the child clinging to its mother's apron strings. Unless we do this, we shall not be able to apply H.P.B.'s teaching to ourselves individually. ”Throughout the whole mystic literature of the ancient world we detect the same idea of spiritual Esotericism, that the personal God exists within, nowhere outside the worshipper.”
H.P.B. strongly attacked the idea of the personal God as put forward in the outer world, but she believed in the personal God within each worshipper. ”That personal Deity is no vain breath or a fiction, but an immortal entity.” Therein lies the strength of the entity – its immortality; ”an immortal entity the Initiator of Initiates.” We should ponder over this expression. We talk too lightly about Initiation, and we do so because we are ignorant of it. This thought of H.P.B.'s needs meditating on. There is something within us that is immortal, the personal God, the Initiator of Initiates. This is a radical idea and needs most careful thought. H.P.B. deliberately tells her pupils who are getting ready for the treading of the Path, the finding of the Master, the coming towards Initiation, that the Initiator is within us.
The ”Atman,” the Self, the mighty Lord and Protector, once that man knew him as the ”I am,” the ”Ego Sum,” the ”Ahmi,” showed his full power to him who could recognize the ”still small voice.” From the days of the primitive man described by the first Vedic poet, down to our modern age, there has not been a philosopher worthy of that name, who did not carry in the silent sanctuary of his heart the grand and mysterious truth. .. . Therefore we must accept the reminder, and simply remark that even in the tortured and barbarous phraseology of the Codex Nazareus, we detect throughout the same idea. Like an undercurrent, rapid and clear, it runs without mixing its crystalline purity with the muddy and heavy waves of dogmatism. We find it in the Codex, as well as in the Vedas, in the Avesta, as in the Abhidharma, and in Kapila's Sankhya Sutras not less than in the Fourth Gospel. We cannot attain the ”Kingdom of Heaven,” unless we unite ourselves indissolubly with our Rex Lucis, the Lord of Splendour. and of Light, our Immortal God. We must first conquer immortality and ”take the Kingdom of Heaven by violence,” offered to our material selves. (Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, 317-318)This whole passage brings a great inspiration. We have to find the Immortal Being in us. He must initiate; He must bring us the light. This teaching of H.P.B. is of vital value and importance at the present moment. Without this principal, central, cardinal fact – that there is within us an immortal entity whose activities must be brought into expression – we cannot do anything in the spiritual life. We can only take the Kingdom of Heaven by violence when the Immortal God within us has been brought into activity and expression. Therefore we want to find Him. In another place H.P.B. says that He is the Master of Masters, and there is no Master higher than that immortal Divine Spark within us. H.P.B. insists strongly on the unfoldment of the powers of the Higher Self. Now, frankly, if we examine ourselves, many of us will find that we are too dependent on external things. These externals are very good, maybe very valuable; still they are externals. Our tendency is to get into a mistaken groove and make it more and more defined. Unless we recognize that all these truths are given to us to be applied in our own way to our own individual cases, and that in the application of them no power in heaven or earth can help us, save ourselves, we will continue in our mistakes. Therefore the reliance on the inner consciousness, the inner Self, is necessary.
We should turn again and again to that very wonderful list of qualities in the Gita (Discourse XVI). They are meant for the person who wants to tread the spiritual Path of Illumination. The first of them is Fearlessness. Studying this in the light of what has been said before, we may ask ourselves why it is that fearlessness is put forward as the first of the great qualities necessary for the treading of the Path. We find, in studying the Gita, that the great effort of Arjuna is to become fearless. Over and over again he is told: ”Therefore stand up and fight.” What is this quality of fearlessness from the point of view of spiritual progress? It is something different from the ordinary fearlessness of a soldier in the army, though that is a reflection of the real spiritual Fearlessness. It has a connection with what H.P.B. says is the Entity, the personal God within. Both the teachings are the same, but given in different language. Both are spiritual teachings putting forward the same truth.
Why is it that fear overcomes us? Because we are only beginning to develop the first quality of the spiritual life – discrimination. We find when we return from the silence of our meditation upon the Real, the Immortal Self, into the darkness of this world, we become entangled with the unreal. As long as we have not perfected that quality of discrimination, fear will permeate our life. As we discriminate between the real and the unreal we are able gradually to put the right value on things. It is because we rely on outside things that we get hold of the wrong discrimination and dispassion. We pass from form to form, not from form to life. The difference of passing from the unreal to the real is a difference in kind, not in degree. To us it is often a difference in degree only. That is not the spiritual life. We must make the difference one of kind. We must pass from form to life. That is real discrimination. The real desirelessness is the understanding of the fact that all things are real but have different values; they have different places in the universe to fill. For the spiritual life, therefore, we need the real dispassion.
Now, what do we do? We pass from object to object and let the inner consciousness lie asleep. We think we are experiencing spiritual illumination, when we pass through various stages and contact many forms, gaining the experiences that the life without has to give. The human individual – the I in us – has two poles. This ”I” is being continually affected by the lower pole. We do not contact the spiritual pole within us, but constantly attach ourselves to the material pole. External things control us, instead of our controlling them. Therefore we ought to be fearless from the spiritual point of view. We must have a place of retreat, a fortress to which we can go and consult our Headquarters Staff – the General in the fortress who is not the actual fighter, but who can direct and guide us and reveal to us the plan of the campaign. Thence comes the spiritual strength and force which enables us to go on and endure. Without that attitude we cannot ”take the kingdom of heaven by violence.” We must have strength so to do, otherwise it can and will take us by violence. This is what happens constantly. There is, so to speak, a fight between the different natures of the universe. We who identify ourselves with the material, go under each time, and therefore the quality which makes men free is this quality of Fearlessness. ”Greater than destiny is exertion,” is a teaching that is repeated over and over again; and it is true if we identify ourselves with the spiritual pole, but not so if we identify ourselves with the material one.
In our meditation, therefore, in our study, in our daily life, our effort should be to find and express the Inner Self within us, and not, to rely too much on outside things. Let us find our own Path, not walls in the wake of others. The child, when he grows up, finds his own way, his own work, his own colleagues, his own philosophy. We are too apt to rely on leaders, and instead of taking up some of the burden, we put on the Masters our own weight, and sometimes the Masters have to push us off. The great karma of the world is on the shoulders of the Masters; we should relieve Them of some of it, not put on Them additional burdens. We should be prepared to face our own karma.
This brings us to the point of discipleship, the coming nearer to the Master. Discipleship is not within the range of the personality unless the personality is controlled by the ego, and the ego begins to work as personality. We may talk of Discipleship, we may play with the idea, but the real power of the Master working in and through us is not a possibility unless this is done.
The first necessity, as H.P.B. has put it, is to find that Inner Entity, that Immortal Ruler, that Initiator of Initiates. This work is to be accomplished in definite stages – first, a clear conception of the thing to be done, then application of the doctrine of the Inner ruler continuously, not only in meditation and study, but also in daily life; in matters of judgment to act by what comes to us from within. It does not matter if we make mistakes. We have all had tumbles in the past and we can always pick ourselves up and go on. If we are wise we learn by the mistakes of other people, by their example. That is the way we can make progress. We have so much personality that we fail to see the big Truths. Therefore we must follow that inner voice of conscience; even if it is not all-wise, it is our conscience; it is the best we have, so to follow it is the best method to choose in the spiritual life.
We rely too much on outside matters, and that is why we do not make progress. We may get book after book, find new ways of service; but these do not bring us the spiritual life. We pass from form to form, from shape to shape, but we must proceed from form to life; within ourselves we find the Ruler whom fire cannot burn, nor water drown, nor winds sweep away. He is always within – perpetual, eternal, helping and guiding, when we need help and guidance. To find that God within us – that is the first attainment. We must find ourselves living in the world of Gods, we must find the habitat of the Masters and make it our own. Theirs is a world of Life and Light and Immortality. They are not to be found elsewhere. One may find Their expressions here and there in the world, but one will not find Them. Our task is to find our Immortal Ruler, our Self, and then to go forth into the world, bringing to it the kingdom of heaven. Slavery is bad, and spiritual slavery is the worst of all slaveries.
That is the great, the central idea of the spiritual life. Without living it we shall make no progress. We may go from form to form, and in the long course of evolution, when we come to the seventh globe in the Seventh round, we may at last find ourselves. But our idea is to hasten our evolution; to do today what ordinary humanity will do in the hereafter. Let us then give as an offering our meditation, study, daily life, to the Masters who are waiting to help us all. Awaken the sleeping Lord within you, and then the ever-watching Lords of Compassion will help you to free the world from the bondage of spiritual slavery.