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Studies in "The Voice of the Silence"
I. – The Wandering Heart


© 2001 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö 

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   [1. The Wandering Heart    2. The Slayer of the Real   3. The Mind of the Renouncer   4. The Virtuous Mind ]


The downfall of every civilization is caused by the weak morals of those who live in and by it. False knowledge or misuse of knowledge generally accompanies weakened morals. An unbalanced relation between knowledge and ethics brings about a critical stage which, if not promptly attended to, results in death. Historical examples – the Roman Empire for one – will occur to any reader. War plays a part in the destruction and the reconstruction of civilizations. From the days of the Mahabharata down to our own times we come upon the phenomenon of unbalance between mental capacity and moral responsibility, competition leading to war and wars, then destruction. The destruction of the entire Kshatriya caste took place on Kurukshetra – an event which has a lesson for us all who are witnessing the sinking of European civilization.

Only a few in every century perceive the necessity of maintaining in their own lives the balance between knowledge and love, between head and heart. The great majority show an unbalance – feelings alone without the light of Wisdom predominate in one portion of the majority, while in the other head-learning without soul-wisdom, without compassion and philanthropy and sacrifice, works havoc. Religious feeling without knowledge is a curse which develops fanaticism, hatred and war; knowledge devoid of a spiritual basis soon develops into false knowledge which begets arrogance, enmity and war. Only a few, a small minority in any century, are Esotericists – not enquirers nominally interested in the Occult but real students learning to practise and to promulgate the grand doctrines of the Science of Life. Their task is to produce that balance between knowledge and ethics in their own constitution without which there can be neither the gaining of enlightenment nor the practice of altruism for the good of all.

For these few H.P.B. produced the book called The Voice of the Silence, dedicating it to them. In the Preface to that priceless little volume she writes that she offers three Fragments and that more could not be given "to a world too selfish and too much attached to objects of sense to be in any way prepared to receive such exalted ethics in the right spirit."
[The Voice of the Silence, p. iii ULT-edition]

Those only who are serious and sincere about moulding their own minds will make use of the book. As H.P.B. writes:

Unless a man perseveres seriously in the pursuit of self-knowledge, he will never lend a willing ear to advice of this nature. [Voice p. iii]

Esoteric Philosophy has always taught the art of all-round development  – a healthy mind in a healthy body; but also, it has always taught that the course of unfoldment is from within without, and that therefore mind and not body should be the starting point, and that motive and not method should receive primary consideration. Not that body and method were neglected, but ever and always mind and motive were made the starting point. This is the burden of the Gita, of the doctrines of the Buddha, of the teachings of Jesus.

Those who have made friends with The Voice of the Silence have noted that it too gives primary importance to the training of the mind, with the right motive. In these four articles we shall consider the place of the motive and the activity of the mind as taught in the three Fragments, each of which should be considered as an independent unit. While there is, of course, an intimate interdependence between them, we should not consider the third Fragment to be in line of succession to the second, nor the latter as a continuation of the teaching of the first. Each emphasizes a particular aspect of the Truth, of the Way and the Path; each has its own message. One is not superior to the other any more that blue as a primary colour is superior to yellow or inferior to red.

Like all Occult treatises The Voice of the Silence is written in a cipher and yields more than one meaning, for there is more than one key to be used in deciphering a profound cipher. The neophyte at his stage, the adept at his, use the teachings, for growth as for service – for growth through service. H.P.B. has made "a judicious selection" for "the few real mystics" of the era to which she came, who recognized her and its worth. For students of the modern generation the book has the same message and offers the same benefits; for them too the formulation of the motive and the training of the mind form the first step.

A phrase of H.P.B.'s might well be used as a touchstone to determine the nature of our motive for assaying the task of gaining self-knowledge and attempting self-improvement. In The Key to Theosophy [Original edition p. 261-62], commenting upon ascetic practices H.P.B. speaks of "what a man thinks and feels, what desires he encourages in his mind, and allows to take root and grow"; what we think greatly depends on what we feel, and we can determine the character of our feelings by noticing the desires which arise from roots so firmly embedded in the soil of the personality. "What desires he encourages in his mind" – what desires he "allows to take root," what desires he allows "to grow" – this will reveal the motive he harbours. Very often our motives are hidden from us and on the score of motive many fail ere they begin. The Master K.H. once wrote:

The first and chief consideration in determining us to accept or reject your offer lies in the inner motive which propels you to seek our instructions, and in a certain sense – our guidance. [The Mahatma Letters, # 2,]

We have to learn to distinguish between inner or real and outer or superficial motive. Again, the same Master points out that "our Eastern ideas about 'motives,' and 'truthfulness,' and 'honesty' differ considerably from your ideas in the West." [The Mahatma Letters # 30,] In India, most of the "educated"  have Western minds – to be more precise, Eurasian minds – and they suffer from the same limitations as Western-born men and women. The eastern idea of motive is a profound one, and in ascertaining our motive we must take time and have to be careful, judicious, alert and attentive.

While it is true that motive is everything, we must never overlook the clear teaching of history that "good motive without knowledge makes sorry work sometimes" Mr. Crosbie continues:

All down the ages there is a record of good motive, but power and zeal misused, for want of knowledge. Theosophy is the path of knowledge. It was given out in order, among other things, that good motive and wisdom might go hand in hand. [The Friendly Philosopher, p. 4.]

On the plane of motive the student's attention is drawn from the beginning to the ideals of the higher life. Not entanglement in the world of matter through ambition and the like, but a withdrawal and a consequent complete emancipation from the universe of Illusion – Maya and its Play – Lila. The student has to choose between sense-life and soul-life, and when he is sufficiently confirmed in his higher desire to live as a soul, subduing the senses, he is presented with another, the grandest ideal humanity has ever known – Renunciation. Soul-culture leads the practitioner to the idea of Liberation, a state so much desired by the afflicted – by hearts laden with sorrow, by heads full of confusion. Having seen the cause of disease, having drunk the potion of cure, who would want to continue hospital life? Having perceived the degradation of a prostitute's life, who would want to live in a house of prostitution? Having recognized the world as a vast lunatic asylum, who would want to dwell therein, and not run away from it? Even a little knowledge of Theosophy shows to the thoughtful and earnest student that this world is like unto a hospital, full of the ailing and the scrofulous; that men and women in their millions prostitute their minds and their hearts; that the world is full of moonstruck neurotics who rush about hither and thither fancying themselves sane and sound. The Theosophical student registers that to be of this world is to seek disease, to prostitute powers, to become mad; "Let me have none of these," he says. Thus for more than one life the student fixes his mind on Liberation and his motive in leading the higher life is to free himself from "the world, the flesh, and the devil." The Voice of the Silence recognizes the place of the Path of Liberation – the conquest of Nirvana.

For many centuries the ideal of Liberation has inspired generations of mystics, and here in India especially the desire for Moksha and to reach Nirvana has become the supreme, nay, the only goal of spiritual striving. The great Buddha taught the Path of Renunciation and exemplified the teaching in his own life. Says H.P.B.:

Esoteric teachings claim that he renounced Nirvana and gave up the Dharmakaya vesture to remain a "Buddha of Compassion" within reach of the miseries of this world. [The Theosophical Glossary, p. 67]

With the passing away of His pure Teachings from the land of His birth, the concept of Moksha prevailed in India as the sole ideal, submerging that of Renunciation. Nowhere is the Teaching of the Path of Renunciation so clearly formulated, nowhere are its functions and objectives so profoundly contrasted with those of the other Path, as in The Voice of the Silence. One of the missions of H.P.B.'s incarnation was not only to point to this forgotten truth, but, further, to arouse in as many hearts as possible the aspiration to tread the Path of Renunciation. Therefore among the only three Fragments she gave to the public world is that of "The Two Paths" and among "the few" must arise those who will undertake the culture of the heart necessary for the treading of that path. The attractions inherent in the ideal of renunciation are so powerful and potent as well as patent that most among "the few" hastily say to themselves, "I will tread the Path of Renunciation." They overlook that special preparation is needed for that task and that between the great service of the Renouncers and the desire, however ardent, of the aspirant to love and to help his fellows there is a difference not only of degree but of kind – of quality. To acquire the wisdom necessary for that Path takes time and especial effort; and this is possible through Chelaship, not as it is understood in the religious and mystical world, but as it is understood in Occultism and Esoteric Philosophy. A special kind of training and development is necessary to walk the Way of Renunciation: it is the renouncing not only of the world of matter but also of the world of spirit; not of life in form only but also of life eternal. It is freedom from the bondage of passion which every Emancipated Soul enjoys but further it is acceptance of the Bondage of Compassion which the mukta does not accept.

The training of the Probationer includes the unfoldment of the right motive which the ideal of the Path of Renunciation presents. Chelaship implies the treading of that Path and the displacement of other motives – including that of Liberation – by the One Motive, the real inner motive, of which all outer motives should be but expressions and emanations. The choice comes at the end, but that choice is the culmination of innumerable choices made by the soul – from the stage of the Probationer to that of the Adept.

If we encourage in our mind the desire to renounce, if we nourish it that it may take root and grow, we will be getting the necessary training for acquiring the Right Motive. That training is not in mere resolve and verbal repetition of the famous Pledge of Kwan-Yin, but a remembrance of it during the performance of daily duties. The Great Renouncer does not rush to help here, there and everywhere, but "ever protects and watches over Humanity within Karmic limits." [Theosophical Glossary, p. 231] This implies knowledge, especially of the Law of Cycles and "the ultimate divisions of time." [The Ocean of Theosophy, 4 ULT-edition] That is why H.P.B. says that "It is easy to become a Theosophist ... But it is quite another matter to put oneself upon the path which leads to the knowledge of what is good to do, as to the right discrimination of good from evil." (Students will do well to reflect upon the differentiation made by H.P.B. – Raja Yoga, p. 17 [p. 19, 1973 ed.]; it is not easy to become a Theosophist, only comparatively less difficult; the path of the Esotericist "leads a man to that power through which he can do the good he desires, often without even apparently lifting a finger.")

The cultivation of Right Motive takes more than one life: the control of the wandering mind is a necessity universally recognized but how many think of the wandering heart? When the heart has been steadied concentration of mind becomes easy, for an objective has been found. The mind gathers itself together and makes the objective its centre; but without a goal or an objective the mind can never gain one-pointedness. Many and varied are men's objectives in life, and the student of Theosophy is no exception to the rule. If he determines his objective to be neither the bliss of Nirvana nor the developing of siddhis, low or high, nor achieving success in this or that sphere, but letting everything go, to tread the Path of Renunciation, disciplining himself for the life of spiritual service of Orphan Humanity, then he has found the correct objective, the Right Motive essential for the life of Chelaship. Once an aspirant resolves to follow the Right Motive, it, whether he remembers it or not, will affect his life and force him to work for humanity in one way or another. Directly he attempts to gain spiritual benefit selfishly instead of trying to help his brothers, he will feel the inner call to work, which cannot be evaded. For the Great Choice, his time will come; but its coming will be hastened as he remains faithful to the great Choice of his present incarnation – to endeavour to make Theosophy a Living Power in his Life.

From The Theosophical Movement, X, July 1940, pages 129-31.


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