A mysterious presence
In these pages I have tried to tell how consciousness of God and how knowledge of God's value came to me.
As this work went forward, I felt and knew some presence in myself that took a part in its making. If I were to say that these pages were written by me, there would be an uneasy feeling of untruth in me. If I were to say the contrary, there would be a sense of the absurd in such a statement. I leave the reader to make what he can of these paragraphs.
Rather than be the scribe of ephemeral fact let me, O Lord, be the scribe of eternal vision. Let me write down word-for-word those divine messages which come to me out of the ether.
It is both my fate and my joy to labour to the last as a medium for this voice within me. I shall put down my pen only when I put down my life.
It did not occur to an unimaginative mind that I could always conquer a competence with my pen, whether I wrote highly paid publicity material for large commercial companies or lowly paid instructional and inspirational material for struggling spiritual seekers. A narrow mentality could not arrive at the understanding that my fortune lay within my head and underneath my pen-nib, not within the ashram of any individual yogi nor underneath the Indian sky. How could anyone with whom my personal intercourse was necessarily shrunken by my nomadic life to the fewest possible words adjudge either my character or my motives? And what reply but contemptuous silence could I make when such a one started a chorus of calumny about my having sat at the feet of Ramana Maharshi meanly and merely to earn a livelihood? For how could an ignorant man know at the time that I carried a standing invitation to become the editor of a journal in the West at a remuneration many times more than my modest earnings from books?
The truth is that I am not and never have been a journalist; I am not and never have been a professional author. Most of my time and much of my energy are pledged, as sacredly and as sincerely as any human being has ever pledged them, to the quest of the Overself and to the communication of the results of this quest for the helping of other seekers. I always felt that the term of life was too short merely to be devoted to earning a livelihood or collecting luxuries. No!--I wrote about these higher things because something higher than my petty self bade me do so, and when it tells me to desist I shall certainly do so and never write about them again. Meanwhile I regard my work to be no less holy than a priest's. Journalists and authors usually think--and quite rightly--of the fees they receive or the royalties they earn as being so much payment for so many words written or for so many copies sold. I however am constitutionally incapable of thinking like them and therefore I know well that I am neither a journalist nor an author. For I am never really alone when writing but every now and then there rises before my mind's eye the vision of some man or woman whose whole life may take a new and nobler course because of a few paragraphs which flow lightly from this old pen of mine, or of some broken creature whose self-destroying hand may be stayed and stayed forever from a suicidal act because of a fresh understanding got from some sentences which trip out of my typewriter. There can be no reasonable recompense for such services. They cannot be properly priced in any of this planet's currencies, so it would be better not to price them at all. Certainly it seems to me that I have nothing to sell and that so long as I listen for and obey the Voice deep within the heart, so long will the world's rewards or the world's sneers be but of secondary importance. And so long as my critics think that I have come into embodiment for the same petty little purposes as they, so long will they utterly fail to understand me. The abyss between us is too wide and too deep for that. It is indeed the abyss between two short words: the impassable chasm between get and give.
My work is a "prophetic" message to our times, a religious revelatory work. An academic seal would put it on an intellectual and consequently lower plane.(P)
He could not communicate such discoveries as a matter for doubt or for settlement by discussion. He can communicate them only with a tone of authority and in an atmosphere of surety, for this is how he himself received them.
Each oracular sentence carries a message for someone, somewhere. The writer does not need to know who it is.
I am but a messenger. I proffer no initiation, and propose to perform no miracles for you. All I can do is to say, with H.P. Blavatsky: I can tell you how to find Those who will show you the secret gateway that leads inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte for evermore. For those who win onwards, there is reward past all telling: the power to bless and save humanity. For those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come.
It is not my fault if my style insists on sounding forth an authoritative and prophetic tone. I do not create it by any act of will. It is as if some ethereal presence stands behind the mind and bids me utter its message.
Everyone who writes a letter to praise my books and express grateful thanks for help derived from them puts me through a stringent test. Do I see clearly and acknowledge freely that I was merely used as a channel through which his own higher self passed a message or an inspiration to him? If I take the virtue all to myself I fall into a miserable self-conceit.
I am a messenger, not a master; an awakener, not a teacher; my external work ends with the deliverance of this message through writing and the arousal of those minds who can respond sympathetically to it.
The few who cherish these spiritual impulses will understand why we must await patiently the cyclic moment for such a message just as they will understand that it is something more than a mere fable.
It is a wisdom fed also by many other minds than my own, and in the end by the divine intelligence itself.
Whoever regards such writing as a professional activity in which I have engaged myself is the kind of fellow who is unable to look underneath appearances and is consequently the constant victim of illusion. I have testified before and must testify again that I write at the bidding of a higher call than the purely professional one. This is the only kind of writing that interests me and this is why I have often refused and shall continue to refuse much more lucrative literary and journalistic proposals.
I have tried to put into this book all that my mind can comprehend and my words can hold of these higher mysteries and their solution, but there is a chasm between thought and word which exists because of the transcendental nature of the subject itself. Nevertheless so far as human art can make the effort and so far as I have mastered such art, this chasm has been made markedly narrower, it is hoped, than earlier Western writers had left it.
Mine is not the only hand through which such spiritual messages are being indited.
Out of this wide orbit we have at last come to a point where the process of sifting the wheat from the chaff has sufficiently advanced to permit us to stand aside from all asserted teachers, to be indifferent to the utterances of all authoritative texts, and to devote no further time to researches in Oriental lands. Nevertheless, in the present book, owing to the personal progress which has been made since the completion of the previous volume (which is not nullified by the fact that the long path we have yet to tread reveals by contrast how little advanced we really are), we have been guided more than anything else by an inner guide in such cases where limited attainment made verification not possible. It taught us what to set down where we could not see and it told us what to give forth to others concerning regions where we could not walk.
Inside mystical experience
I did not merely observe and describe these experiences from outside, as an intellectual scientific researcher might do, but I penetrated into them and revealed what was found there to others who lacked the capacity to accompany me.
The concept of the Overself's presence among us originated with the ancients but is validated by modern experience. This experience of the Overself provides the best evidence of its existence and reality: no other is needed. It would be a failure in duty not to acknowledge that I have felt and known this existence hundreds of times. It is no longer a matter of mere faith to me, but of absolute knowledge. This is not to be put by anyone to my good credit for what I am and have done in this life, but to my good karma.
Unforgettable as the finding of secret wealth was the day when this Overself chose to make itself known to me. For I had reached a crisis in my life and could go no farther if this troubling of the air with harsh thoughts was not put right in the only way that it could be put right. Many are the adventures and manifold incidents that have befallen me since that time, both of woe and weal. But now they do not matter, nor do I deem them worth the trouble of recording. For the mists that lay about me began to die away, and I came to know that man does not walk alone. The Overself is ever with him. As the years unfolded the dark curtains of the future, a strange quiescence stole upon the heart when it placed its life upon the altar of obedience, and when it grew to accept each day as freely as the wandering nomad accepts the pitiless desert in which he was born. It then cast the shroud of care that enveloped it and turned from the tomb of unsatisfied desire. So I came to wrap myself round with the silken mantle of secret hidden Beauty and sought to let no bitter brooding, no storm of passion touch it.
It was the opening of summer in l953. An internal tropical malady caught from eating deliberately poisoned food a few months earlier in the Far East had run its course and was about to end, as it so often did end, fatally. I suddenly and involuntarily fell across the writing desk and felt consciousness slumping into a coma. I dragged myself somehow to a couch and there the coma turned out to be the death swoon. After a couple of moments I was already almost entirely out of the physical body. The line was about to be drawn to close the past lifetime's account. . . . In that condition and at that moment my body was found by someone who happened to enter the room, someone so highly sensitive and intuitive as to recognize at once what the hidden situation was. My friend called me to come back, emphatically, pleadingly, and insistently by turns. At the same time I awoke to a dreamy consciousness, half in one world, where the astral figure of a Master, well-known and well-loved, appeared to me, and half in the physical world. The Master said, "I have come to take you away. But you still have the choice, whether to return or to come with me." I reflected rapidly. Personally I felt quite willing to accept the vast relief from the burden of P.B.'s earthly life now offered me. But at the same time, I felt pity for those who looked to me for help. The work with and for them was unfinished. My mission to them and to others was unfulfilled. How could I go? All this happened in a very few seconds. Regretfully, reluctantly, the decision formed itself within my heart. I asked to be allowed to return to the flesh so that I could continue the service and complete the record.
These experiences gradually became a pointing finger, a directive and predictive message from the Overself to continue and complete the work which, through destiny, it has imposed on him.
The evening comes on apace but still I am loath to light the room lamp. For this is my favoured hour to escape the world, its dusk my daily invitation to return to the heart's silent mysterious depth. More especially is this so in the long summer evenings.
I know honestly and must say at the beginning that it is not through any egotistical conceit that I have told this story here. Others have told me, and I have also come to see for myself, that there is a special value for all of us in the description of such personal experiences. I want to share this experience with others and especially with those who have heard about it, who have recognized its supreme worth, and have unsuccessfully sought it for years. I feel that they need it more than other people. I want to help them give it to themselves.
All memory of my worldly business fell away . . . whereupon Truth smiled and raised her hand as if to signify that she understood very well that I came from a lower world, where the getting of food and drink or the mating of bodies in love were profoundly important things, but that here, whence one could view the coming and going of time itself, they could well be disregarded. A great sense stole over me that I had indeed been deceived and that the detail of my personal life was less important than I had believed. Happiness stood not therein but was ever at the side, if we would but turn the head and acknowledge her presence. As I breathed that air which seemed to come from a land of immortal youth, I learned a few things. I do not know whether they can be spoken of, for there are things which the tongue is not fully equal to telling, and these seem to be some of them. Yet I must try. I must pause to pay homage to those glorious truths. . . . And then my vision fell away from me but the mood did not. I became aware of my physical surroundings.
Although I did not come so close as Quaker John Woolman did ("I was brought so near the gates of death that I forgot my name," he reported), it was close enough.
I was sitting on a bench under a tree just outside the extremely picturesque but noisily busy market square of a southern French town, halting there for what was intended to be just long enough a time--a mere two or three minutes--in which to capture on paper a perception which had come up out of nowhere and then proceed on my way. But instead, barely written down, the work ended in a pause, a stillness rose increasingly around my head, and then the Visitation came.
These paragraphs are written from the inside of the mystical experiences, not from the outside, and this may be mistaken for a kind of arrogance.
It is my long-sustained and well-tested belief that I have had certain revelations from a higher source. The revelations are mixed, some dealing with the world's fortunes and misfortunes but others dealing purely with the Overself's wisdom and workings. The source is beyond me and met only in the profundity of meditation. I cannot name it or describe it, so others may call it what they like, yet I am directly aware of it.
I have had forty years' experience of these techniques, forty years in which to test the truth of the principles behind them. I have so far found only verification. If I had found at any time falsification instead, I should have sought a different outlet for my interests.
Whatever I write down is not only to guide or teach others but also myself. I was warned to be observant, not to miss and leave out any of the little details of the inner life, for all are useful. The Overself is not to speak through my words alone, but also through my actions.
I sought for the Overself amid all the conditions of life. I found it first in a series of passing glimpses that were stretched out at intervals through years and later in a series of unique and powerful experiences whose results were enduring. Yes, that is the all-important word, for if it does not leave something in the consciousness that lasts the lifetime, it is not enough to have had a mystical experience. The prodigal has still not returned to his father's home, but only seen it through the haze for a few moments and from afar off.
I seek not to describe these experiences but to reproduce them as vividly, as immediately, as I can.
How many a glorious moment has found its way from the inner life to my outer notebook!
I believe that there is a soul in man. This is a frank if commonplace avowal. Yet as I look again at these words, I find a false modesty in them. It is a poor tribute to truth to hesitate timidly in making the open declaration that I know there is a soul because I daily commune with it as a real, living presence.(P)
I must go out of myself to comprehend the meaning of the words "I AM THAT I AM."
I saw that all things are in Mind, that Mind is not the physical brain, and that therefore they were all ideas. Metaphysically they were transient and unreal. Even the ego is unreal. Mind is the only Reality.
(My Initiations) It made me aware of my faults and weaknesses. The revelation was very painful. I suffered.
The world around him, the social and industrial life that environs him, has become a mummer's show. As a vacuum-pump withdraws the air from a glass vessel, so has some strange hand withdrawn the sense of Reality from his surroundings.
Although I believe that I have something worthwhile to say, I do not succumb to any special conceit about it. I read the critics or listen to them in the humble hope that among the exaggerations, the falsities, and the misunderstandings it will perhaps be possible to find one or two hints worth noting, one or two corrections of my own errors. I do not at all believe that I am infallible; but I know from all past experience that the mysterious Presence which makes certain things known, but whose message I may fail to report rightly, is.
I do not meditate formally, as I get the same experience at night before falling asleep and again in morning on awakening.
The hour of escape from grey bondage is at hand, and a soft stirring of the heart announces the inner visitant. I pick up my pen from the desk.
I offer no proofs, no documentation, no argument, when IT is there; it is enough to silence me. But when I do offer them and speak, you will do better to depart.
I am unable to separate Life from God or the secular from the sacred. I find a divine element in all that is brought forth by time. But this is because when I gaze deep within myself, I first see it there, feel it there, and commune with it there.
It is not through a haughty confidence in his own ideas or an egoistic disdain for those of others that he has this certitude about the Divine Being's reality. It comes not from audacity but from experience, from constant thought and profound meditation, and from ever-felt presence.
Where others find emptiness or futility in their own lives, and even more in those surrounding them, he finds meaning and purpose. There was a need to escape from nihilism, and he succeeded. Now his being and identity increase. He knows, with joy, that he shares in an inner reality which sponsors the universe.
When he felt that he could secure no help from anyone else, so that it was useless to depend on human beings, he decided to turn to God as his only friend. He was actually doing what his Soul wanted him to do all that time, and he actually reached a stage which the advanced mystic wished him to reach. His darkness was really light and the aloneness was the requisite condition in which the Soul can be found.
The description of the mystical experience on the last three pages of Chapter 14 of The Wisdom of the Overself refers to a rare event and one which is usually attained only after arduous struggles. If one has had this experience, he is far above the average seeker in this Quest. To such, nothing short of the highest philosophical attainment--as distinct from mystical or religious attainment--will really satisfy.
I gave my years and my energies to this quest, faithful to faith, yet regardful of reason.
In my younger days I might have said, "If you will not show me a sign, I cannot show any faith in you." Now I knew better.
Plunged amid the cares and frets of mundane existence as we are, most will read such statements with wistful or scornful scepticism. Whoever doubts these thoughts doubts them with me! Sometimes they seem too good to be true and I try to turn a sceptical face towards them, but lo!--a strange peace invades my room, a sudden stillness descends on my mind, a grave grandeur elevates my heart--and I am undone! Then nothing seems too glad to be true, for then I have found the infinite Goodness behind life. And then too the last and greatest of the deceivers that hold us to life suddenly loses all its power.
I was frequently brought into previously unknown experiences.
Having had a rich and exceptional experience in the departments of mysticism and yoga, my maturest conclusions are surely more valuable than my immature ones.
There were the days when meditation failed me but the Presence stayed, whether in crowded trains or busy streets, being felt more powerfully when alone. But during the fourth year It also had left. The world insisted on a confrontation; its hard lessons had to be learned, my own fears and weaknesses exposed, intellect and practicality developed, science revalued for what it was worth, and the understanding why industry and materialism were growing to ever-greater power gotten.
Travelling in a taxi down Rome's Via Veneto and remembering "this is my hour," I had little difficulty in entering the silent place of the Mind--despite that celebrated thoroughfare's car-filled road and thronged sidewalks. I do not recommend such a place for such a purpose--there are better ones--but modern life being what it is, it is needful to learn how to defeat the world.
From the writings of illumined men; from close personal association, observation, discussion, study, friendship, and meditation with living illumined men; and from my own mystical experience, I have been able to get a fuller picture of what cosmic consciousness really is.
These teachings are not the result of conjecture nor the mirror of opinion. They are insights got by an opening of the inner eyes. This fact must be pointed out, in all humility, if they are to carry to any reader the revelatory understanding which they have already brought the writer.
(1) With the increasingly sensitive awareness induced by meditation, there developed a psychic weakness which troubled me. It was a knowing of other people's mental attitudes and emotional states, their personal characters and inner conditions. I read each man's mind as easily as if it were an extension of my own. Owing to my inexperience, ignorance, and unfamiliarity, I did not know how to bring this excessive empathy under control. I was too easily drawn out of myself, out of my own ego-centre, into that of the person I happened to be with at the time. This weakened or even dispersed my concentration on the Overself and made me too subject to the influence of others. The result was chaos and confusion. It was a long time before I was able to get rid of this unwanted faculty and clear up this undesirable condition.
(2) Then followed an interval of some years, when a dark night settled over me.
(3) The first result was a complete change in my attitudes to life itself, to other people and even to myself.
(4) For four years, when I walked through the city streets, I marvelled at the insensitivity of the crowds, at their eager pursuit of small aims and trivial hopes, at their utter blindness to the inner reality.
(5) In those earlier times about one year was spent in traversing the three degrees. The first was a year of initiation, the second of dedication, and the third of revelation.
My Initiations into the Overself
(1) A force welled up in the heart, rose to the head, then passed forwards into space. As it left the body, I knew I was not the body. I saw the mass of human beings struggling in the misery and strife because of their greed, desire, and selfishness. I saw hands holding the globe. They belonged to a figure whose face I could not see but whom I named "The Master." He said, "Free yourself." I moved on in space and saw on the horizon a coloured sunset glow of half-light which was my destination. I then knew I was not the personal self. But I did not continue and complete my journey. This was because fear entered me--perhaps fear of the unknown. So I returned to the body.
(2) A great love towards all things rises in me at times since the experience.
(3) Since the experience I have been so eager to return to it that I feel frustrated.
(4) The Consciousness first remained with me throughout every day and every night. Then it slowly remained for shorter and shorter periods--one hour less at a time. By the end of a few weeks it had totally disappeared.
(5) In that deep silence the ego was integrated with the Overself. The operation was almost wholly done through the power of Grace. It descended in overwhelming force and crushed out the ego's tyrannical rule.
(6) I found that I could fully enter this transcendental state at any time and at will simply by reorienting my attention upon the idea of turning inwards in the way that a hatha yogi who rolls up his eyeballs and crosses them detaches his attention from the remainder of his physical body. In order to bring about this change of awareness, a certain object of concentration had to be used. Generally it was a simple and short declarative phrase, either an affirmation or the pictorial memory of my most outstanding experience. When the change was effected I found myself at the centre of my being. It was the real "I." Time was then brought to a standstill.
(7) During the illumination there was no jubilant ecstasy, no emotional excitement, no unbalancing rapture. It was a happy peace, a calm abidance in beauty, love, wisdom.
(8) There was no desire to play the missionary and spread the knowledge of it far and wide. On the contrary, I told no one about it but kept it secret.
(9) I found I could go on thinking, or not thinking, while still remaining in the higher awareness.
(10) The period of elementary training was completed, its experience finished.
(11) As this presence held me, it gave me an invulnerable peace and a strange detachment from personal matters or outer happenings.
(12) A new insight of this kind cannot be got by those who refuse to enlarge their visionless academic learning, those whose experience of the world is in the end mostly an experience of pages in books.
(13) I was overpowered by a peculiar feeling of being unreal, and for once even unsure of my own identity.
(14) No psychic voice came into my hearing, no psychic vision unrolled before my eyes. The spiritual and mystical life may be fulfilled completely without entering such a dubious realm.
(15) There was no one whom I met who was unimportant. My interest in everyone, however short or transitory our meeting, was full and complete.
(16) To sit down every day at my writing table and put this experience into words on the paper that lies in front of me, is itself heartening and inspiring. But the fact that there are other people in the world, unknown to me, who feel the same spiritual need that I once felt and who might find some hope or stimulation in such a record of personal experience, also induces me to create this little heap of manuscript.
(17) Although there had been experiences in the past of what purported to be fragmentary visions of former reincarnations, I now saw that those experiences did not belong to any level beyond the higher psychic. From the present level the entire process of reincarnation now seemed to be illusory because it belonged to the realm of illusion itself. The true Self did not reincarnate at all.
(18) This technique of combined deep breathing and energy-raising was discovered quite accidentally--or so it seemed at the time. Certainly nobody taught it to me and no book revealed it to me. I was convinced then as a matter of faith, and today as a matter of knowledge, that it was picked up afresh out of the subconscious memory of former reincarnations.
(19) I saw that every little detail is predestined, even the fact that I am to write at this very moment, and to write just these particular words. All that has happened to me in the past has brought me to this point, which makes the act a fated one. I am not free to do anything else than write, nor to write anything different from what I am writing.
(20) I saw that everything which happens does so in conformity with the World-Idea. The entire planetary situation, which includes the situation of each being within it, is providentially arranged.
At the roofed shrine of the giant stone seated Buddha, approached by a long paved causeway, I squatted in front for a few minutes by the flagstones in the middle of the causeway. I received an encouraging message to proceed farther, a clear premonition of coming contact with the Khmer adepts that day.
Angkor Wat: The chief sanctuary on the third (top) floor of the temple. I squatted several paces in front of the shrine where a standing gold lacquered Buddha was positioned with one hand raised in a world-blessing. At his feet reclined another statue, the dying Buddha (unpainted), with one hand under his head and behind him three small bodhisattvas paying respectful homage to their master. Very soon, lulled by the peace of the sanctuary and sensitive to its extraordinary subtle power, I unified myself with that Buddha. My gaze was fixed across the intervening paved floor and doorless doorway, unfaltering, upon the eyes of the standing Buddha, the others being shrouded in the darkness of that small room. We became ONE. A spiritual current passed perceptibly from the mysterious figure into my squatting cross-legged body. In those divine moments before sunfall, when a sublime inner detachment and peace had engulfed me, I knew that I had got from Angkor Wat that which I had travelled over many leagues to get.
As I sit at this oaken table and face my future, I can now do so without worry and with an almost complete calm. I realize now what I have but dimly realized before, that though the agonies which will yet come to me will be no less real than the agonies which have gone before, there remains a vast freedom of action to mold the man within me who has to endure those agonies. I know now that I can build up the figure and form of a great hero within the small space of my heart; that this hero can fight the darkest fate with bravery and with determination; but that if defeat is starred to come, he will smile and say, "This, too, will pass," and not be too bitter about it. I can mold this inner man; and I will do so.
This, then, is my future; the fortunes or misfortunes of fate are the lesser part; the soul that meets and fights that fate is the greater part; and that soul can be shaped by my own hands.
Mine is a religion which cannot be named, a God who cannot be discussed, a worship which cannot be seen or heard. All that I revere rests in secrecy and silence.
My cynical and solitary nature was flushed with mystical feelings. Noons would come when for a few glorious minutes I was suspended outside time. Evenings would fall when, unexpectedly, I was held by the divine soul. Such occasions were memorable and instructive for they taught that it is possible for man to transcend his terrestrial existence. They revealed more than whole volumes of mysticism. But they came too infrequently, they shone too briefly to eradicate the bitterness with which I viewed God, life, and my fellow men. I could not command them. They eluded my grasp, and while taking the cream off worldly pleasures, they provided no permanent substitute.
Men will come and tell you that the spirit is a delusive mirage. Do not believe them. If that were true these pages would never have come into existence, for there would have been nothing about which to write. Thousands of mystics' lives rise out of the past to silence the lie upon their lips. Thousands more will yet arise out of the veiled future.
Still within the web of memory lies the bright day when first it drew the dark veil aside and showed me its Holy Face. For the first time I felt free of frustrated desire for any new outer possessions, circumstances, or persons. I found my joy within and my satisfaction through the Overself at all times. If anything was lacking on the physical plane, I could have it manifested into existence simply by stating to the Higher Power mentally what I needed but saying at the same time that there would be no real difference to my peace of mind if the lack continued, for I would plainly pray that "not my will, but Thine, be done." By giving up mentally what I wanted, I became detached and freed myself from the desired thing. Yet it was always given to me! By depending upon the real source of Happiness, I was allowed a secondary happiness in worldly things. An unillumined person cannot perceive that God is the very Provider of all. He believes that by obtaining money, position, or power he will find security and happiness. The illumined person knows that they are found only in God.
I had the eerie feeling of the nearness of another world. It was something considerably beyond the feeling of falling asleep.
Throughout the darkest period of intense suffering, the Overself was all the time present, supporting and strengthening him to bear what there could be no escape from, what his higher destiny had irrevocably willed in order to detach him still further from egoism and personal ties. He was in its hands always, in joy and in sorrow alike.
What travel and study, thought and interviews could give anyone on these matters, I also had received. But what personal experience of these inner states could give was an entirely different matter, about which only a limited number could testify as I had testified. Mysticism could not remain a dubious medieval activity. It needed to be put on an accurate foundation, and presented for people with brains.
Never at any time in my research did I depend on mere texts alone. There have been other and fresher sources: the living voice of reputed experts, my own metaphysical reasoning, and my own mystical experience. Equipped with a readiness to learn from even the most obscure expositor, an utter absence of conscious colour or racial prejudice, many years of advanced meditation practice, and a modicum of cultural preparation, I turned from the dead worm-bored manuscripts themselves to living men, discussing all the knotty historical, textual, metaphysical, and yogic-practice problems arising out of these studies with Sanskrit pundits, learned pontiffs, grave ascetics, mountain-dwelling hermits, contemplative mystics, heads of monasteries, and even specialist university professors. I did not hesitate to ask them hundreds of questions with plaguey persistence or to keep my critical faculties alive, for I sought to bring Oriental truth and not Oriental superstitions to the West. I also accepted a few mystical initiations from among those which were offered. The third source which has informed this exposition of the hidden teaching was an internal one. Being a practising and not merely a theoretical mystic, I sought whenever possible and whenever within the scope of my restricted powers to test and verify our revelatory statements before publishing them. For example, I succeeded in confirming in this way the truth of mentalism, a doctrine which forms the very basis of the hidden teaching. This happened during mystical semi-trances wherein I found the source of the surrounding things to be deep below the threshold of the wakeful mind. This single experience out of several is mentioned to dispel the misconception that these pages are merely an indulgence in academic theory, as also to encourage fellow pilgrims plodding farther back on the same road.
Nevertheless my attainment is only a limited one. I am unable to achieve similar verifications of certain other tenets. In such cases I have tried to check my declarations by those of ancient sages who, it is believed, themselves possessed the requisite capacity. Be that as it may, the labour of correlating all these fragments, the toil of eliminating the puzzling contradictions was an exceedingly heavy one. Abnormal reflective ability was needed to understand this philosophy and abnormal introspective ability was needed to describe its ultramystic experiences. The theme was indeed so far beyond an ordinary capacity that at times I strongly felt like renouncing it. I have elsewhere acknowledged our indebtedness to that practical philosopher His Highness the late Maharajah of Mysore for his patient personal encouragement in this undertaking. The immense mass of material which gradually accumulated within my head and notebooks was so confusing in parts that I had to reduce it to systematic shape by a comparative study and careful analysis which required so prodigious an amount of work that the excessive labour involved doubtless cut several years off my earthly life. It was only an iron determination to try to master something of Asia's highest wisdom that enabled me to persevere in putting all the pieces of this mosaic pattern together until they finally fell into proper places and an intelligible pattern came into view at last. Although India has been the central scene of these studies, conversations, and experiences, its insufficiencies compelled my visits to a number of other Asiatic countries upon the same quest, unexpectedly earning myself from His Holiness the aged Supreme Monk of Siam a gift of one of his personal treasures in the form of an ancient bronze statue of the Buddha as well as a Certificate of Merit.
I wrote for the living and not for the dead. Therefore I suited matter and manner to the circumstances of the present day. And although I built upon the foundation laid by the ancients, nevertheless I took large liberties in the erection of the superstructure, based on my personal experience during a quarter-century of practical research into this subject. If the philosophical system which I have presented in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga and The Wisdom of the Overself is regarded as derivative only, it will be regarded wrongly. I have not merely worked out its character from ancient materials alone but also created it from modern ones. For I have gone deep into my own innermost consciousness too. Some of the knowledge found there as well as some learned from contemporaries, has been penned into the words of these books. Thus I have really worked at the emergence of a contemporary philosophic culture.
The making of a messenger
I have embodied in these pages the matured wisdom and dearly bought experience of many many lifetimes.
I learnt this wisdom not only in India but on the limitless sands of the Sahara Desert, on the canyon-sides of the mountain-girdled Yangtze River, in the steaming hot jungles of Siam and Malaya, and on the snowy heights of Tibet.
I am not deceived by all the beauty with which the hangings and paintings, the carved figures and the colourful rugs present me. The allotted years left to me will now pass more quickly than the earlier ones: and then they will finish and the beauty with them. But this is not to say I did not appreciate and enjoy it. Philosophy taught me that even when it warned me against the brevity. Best of all along with this balanced view came the knowledge of what I really was--essential silent ever-living infinitely calm MIND!
I have met men in all their fifty-seven varieties and know a little about the motives which actuate human nature.
From different causes I lacked worldly wisdom, worldly prudence, and worldly common sense. This was the origin of recurrent troubles but, on the other hand, I possessed their contraries--that is, I did have worldly uncommon sense and this fortunately brought me on the quest which had become supremely important to me.
This is the way my mind was formed. It would feel stifled if kept down to petty trivialities, unable to penetrate to what is most important and basically real.
The simple and the learned came to seek counsel or to ask questions. They lamented personal tragedies or confessed personal ignominies, queried metaphysical teaching or related mystical experience. What I learned from them paid for what they got from me.
I do not know how much it is true, and how little, of other authors, but I do know that in some measure every book I wrote implied an autobiographical self-portrait.
Because in the past I wandered through the world visiting holy or wise men, I could rightly call myself a pilgrim. Now my wanderings are more inward than outward.
I have ransacked the world for its wisdom.
In all my work and travel the discovery of my own soul and of men who had discovered theirs was my real aim. I put up a facade of literary purpose in front of this quest because that smoothed my path in a conventional world which knows only conventional aims.
(My Initiations) Those earlier years were exhilarating ones, dynamic with eager search and adventurous exploration, teeming with fresh discoveries and inspiring contacts.
I could have changed places 400 years ago with Emperor Abbar's prime minister, Abu Fazl, speaking of his youth: "My heart felt itself drawn to the sages of Mongolia, I longed for interviews with the lamas of Tibet, I became acquainted with the tenets of all creeds. It is Thou whom I search from temple to temple."
I tried to find traces of this knowledge in musty libraries of the old traditional centres of learning at home [in England] and on the Continent--and succeeded. But where were its living representatives today? The answer came, mysteriously and in unexpected places. And then came the decision to turn to the ancient Orient, so long associated with the faiths and wisdom, the superstitions and culture, of Man.
I travelled the world, let alone India, in order to find the Word.
If any fragment of divine grace, however minute and however imperceptible, comes from these contacts with the masters, I must--merely by mathematical calculation--have received it.
My travels have given me Oriental connections of an unusual kind. My publications have brought me global correspondence of a multi-level kind.
All these experiences, interviews, trainings, studies, and teachings brought into being a fuller view of Truth and a balanced understanding of it. Such a global research enabled me to do what the novice tethered to a particular school or cult could not do. It put contradictory doctrines into their places and corrected their errors.
I am essentially pragmatic in my judgement and businesslike in my methods. I test a theory not only by its practical result, a technique not only by its rational quality but also by its definite success or failure when put to work. I examine an institution not only by its own public claims but also by its own precise conduct.
I have read far more widely than my critics suppose but by temperament I dislike to make a parade of learning. Yet, my esteem for broad scholarship is qualified by my contempt for narrow pedantry. This is why I do not care to fit my quotations to page-number references, why footnotes hardly ever appear in my books, and why I am often content to give an author's name without his book's title. The academic atmosphere is too dry for me to work in, too blind to the spirit and insistent on the letter for me to respect much. I feel that the faculty of vision which can see through and beyond the meaning of a hundred facts is immensely more important than the blind collection of those facts.
The changes of domicile which a nomadic destiny forced on me were helpful to important aspects of research with the few spiritually more advanced members of humanity as well as to service of less advanced ones--all carried on quietly and unobtrusively.
For over a generation I have studied the different forms of contemporary mysticism and seen the different effects.
I visited monasteries and ashrams, gurus and abbots, either as a friendly observer or as a student of comparative religion and mysticism.
Those were the days when I went among the gurus, tossing questions at them and noting down the answers or, much better, sitting in silence with them.
I have seen and associated with widely varied types of the human species, from the lowest of the lower classes to the uppermost of the upper classes, from pariah Indian outcastes to European kings and queens, from ragged peasants to sleekly dressed prime ministers. Thus, what this planet has to offer us, and what we can do with our lives and surroundings, is often within my purview.
One natural consequence of giving so many interviews in such widely assorted parts of the world was that I learnt much about human beings generally, and about spiritually questing human beings specifically.
These conversations with men who were mostly idolized by a few but ignored by the many gave me access to a world far off from the common everyday one.
To write more convincingly about so unconvincing a subject as mysticism, one must write out of his own experience. To do the same about meditation, he must write out of his own practice.
They are truths which I have gathered during forty years of intensive research. And because I believe them in my heart to be a saving knowledge, I have worked for twenty-five years to bring them before those who wanted it.
I have made it my business to ascertain, so far as my limitations allow, the plot behind the World-Drama in which each of us has his role to play.
It demanded no less than hundreds of interviews with different teachers and hermits, thousands of miles of travel to reach them, and at least a hundred thousand pages of the most abstruse reading in the world before I could bring my course of personal study in the hidden philosophy to a final close. Today I have not got the time to take others through such a long and arduous course and they have probably not got the patience to endure it.(P)
I am a researcher, that is my special job. Then I go on to convert the results of my researches into notes and reports, into analyses and reflections. Later I draw upon this material for my published writings.(P)
I lay no special claim to virtue and piety which most men do not possess. But I do lay claim to indefatigable research into mystical truth, theory, and practice.(P)
My final appeal is to truth itself. The inherent rationality of the statements made in the following paragraphs should alone suffice to justify them, but the famous authorities also quoted give a rock-like foundation to such statements and should help to remove the misgivings of timid students. Let them not be intimidated by wordy moralizings and emotional thunderings.
The truth is always there, on its own level and in its own place. If no one can find access to it today, someone will do so tomorrow. I have no illusion about my own relationship to it. No special importance is to be attached to my personality because I believe it to be present in my mind or feel it to be working in my heart.
These are the views of an old man who has experienced much that is normal and supernormal but has thought, read, and heard even more about it.
The struggling aspirant may recognize his own face in some of these descriptions and his own problems in some of these solutions.
The opportunity of observing many persons engaged in various forms and stages of mystical seeking and religious practice both in the Orient and in the Occident, over a period of half a century, put in my hands a large mass of informative data upon the subject.
Having observed at first hand the spiritual destiny of thousands of seekers, I have observed much needless struggle and needless suffering.
His writings are as they should be--a looking-glass showing several hints of his inner strength and illuminated mind.
I gave myself up to curious studies and unusual researches at a period of history when only a very small interest was shown in them.
Reading through the thousands of letters which I have received from these readers, talking over the experiences and discussing the questions of many others met in my travels, has enriched my own knowledge of mystical seeking in our times, broadened my own understanding of it, corrected errors, and revised estimates.
Fate has given one advanced mystic a wide opportunity to learn something positive, an opportunity which has been given only to a few others. So if a person really wants to accept the Quest as primary, this mystic can at least give him a few worthwhile ideas.
Whatever is fully realized and crystallized in the Self achieves its own necessity for being put into writing.
While recognizing the debt which we owe to the pioneer work of these scholars I am unable to accept all their conclusions.
Not only did I investigate the subject; I also contributed to it.
People all over the world wrote to me, some sought me out during my travels, and while noting their experiences I could not help accumulating a vast fund of observations about the difficulties and techniques, the dangers and methods, the theories and results, the delusions and realities which beset the Quest.
I must write sincerely and straightforwardly, or not at all. I must communicate what I find in my own heart, or remain silent. I must draw material out of my own experience, not out of hearsay at second hand, if it is to ring with utter conviction.
This story is so strange, so aside from our preconceived ideas, that I would not trouble to set it down and thereby incur certain ridicule did I not know in my heart that it was absolutely true.
I, being a man of some little activity and not a monk wrapped in prayer nor a metaphysician concocting his cobwebs in musty libraries, have had to devise ways and means for my own life, ways of seeking a profound inner life amid the pressure of practical affairs and endless work.
A perusal of the earlier part of this book, with its harsh criticisms and dark prophecies, is likely to lead to the incorrect conclusion that its author is a pessimist to the soles of his feet. He is not. He has written of things as he found them.
I take up my pen once more and let its slow-flowing words tell of a time when life opened a crowded page for me.
Caught in the tentacles of this mammonistic time, I tried my utmost to make materialism a sufficient guide to the labyrinth of life, but merely succeeded in confirming my belief in mysticism. We may try to dodge the Heavenly Hunter but if he loses his prey in one birth, he will catch it in a later.
I have visited many ashrams, temples, monasteries and found that what I was seeking was not there. The monasteries made it hard to live, the temples were too mesmerized by outer forms, the ashrams were stages for little dictatorships. None of these institutions was really congenial to a free mind. Every sojourn in them taught me anew that peace must be sought and could be found only in my own heart.
Reading and reflection have helped to endorse what experience has taught. Personal contacts with mystics of every kind and status have still further confirmed it. The knowledge gained at the initiation through invitation into a secret order instructed by perfected adepts who dwell on a superior plane, finally clinched it.
When I ventured into it, I found a partially unexplored jungle. When I left there was a trodden path through this jungle.
I am a merchant of words, it is true, but they are words which leap hot from my heart. I have not cut down the expression of my views to accord with conventional ideas.
Youth to me was a perpetual quest, but I find the maturing ones of today incurious of any higher adventures than are afforded by cocktail bars and tennis courts. I remember how I was attracted to the literary portrayals of certain characters whom I felt must exist in real life, and whom I longed to meet. Was Zanoni a mere creature of the quill of Bulwer Lytton? Did not his prototype exist somewhere in unrecorded history, if not in the author's own experience?
Meanwhile I amused myself with dipping my cup into differing streams. Now it was Hegel on the meaning of history, and then it was Bacon on the virtues of scientific method. Today I took in Sidney Webb's socialistic investigations, while tomorrow I listened to the simple wisdom of Jacob Boehme. Anon the paradoxes of Oscar Wilde brought champagne to my beaker; then the remote thoughts of James Hinton engaged my attention. And so I moved on, visiting such other varying rivers of thought as the scientific Huxley, the irritable Schopenhauer, the imperturbable Emerson, the deep Upanishads, the Persian poets, the inspiring Bhagavad Gita, the delightful Shelley, and the unforgettable novel Zanoni by Lord Lytton.
The dedication of my intellect and pen to the spreading of Light was the first act of my literary career. It certainly helped me, by preoccupying my working time with spiritual ideas; and perhaps it helped the world.
I fully and wholeheartedly acknowledge the need of professional background, the worth of professional preparation. Medicine, surgery, and law are not for amateurs. But my profession is quite unorthodox, nay it is unique. There is no recognized institution, no public organization which trains one for it. For its qualifications are created entirely from within oneself, not created from without. Hence my statements of mystical experience personally passed through carry more weight among my followers than any academic recognition through diploma or doctorate could carry.
But if I have retracted my steps, revised my estimates, and clarified my pictures, I have gone forward more determinedly than ever in the new path. The pursuit of truth remains the grandest passion I know.
If I fell into certain errors, it is not only my own defects that must be blamed, but also the confusion in which I found the subject itself; and if I sometimes lost my way in this subject, then it is only in part my own fault and in part the fact that it is still a veritable labyrinth.
Destiny determined that the years of my most critical awakening to the necessity of a complete and radical alteration of my world-view should coincide with the tragic years of the world war.
The P.B. of l946 is not the same as the P.B. of 1926. They differ on several points, although, happily, not on the fundamental points that man's soul is and that his duty here and now is to realize it.
If the further development of my experience led to the exposure of my own past illusions for what they were, that was a result which I neither sought nor welcomed nor foresaw. It was indeed a bitter one.
I did not come to this truth by the accident of inspiration. It came to me at first by deep thought and wide research.
I have not troubled to document my books partly because I was always working under heavy pressure of time, but principally because I considered that the authority of my own modern, personal experience was more helpful to modern seekers than mere references to other books.
If, in my writing, I have quoted so often from Saint Paul, it may be because during boyhood I for a time nourished my soul, amid the prevailing wilderness of modern materialism, on devotional thoughts contained in his wonderful "Letters." Ibn Tufail's Awakening of the Soul fed me too, in those days; but the other man somehow kindled a greater awe and respect in me because in every letter I saw how he was spending himself to enlighten so many people over so wide an area--and perhaps also because he eventually spent out his life in the final dramatic experience of martyrdom.
I am not concerned with what some men have thought and taught about other men. Nor is it for me to wander in the grey valley where the mists of opinion have been settling while the centuries raced them by.
Some may take up this book deceived by the title and thinking to find in it the fancies of a wandering imagination or the lively records of a sensational life. I assure them it is a true book and is none the less true because some of the adventures and a few of the characters are not easily met.
Such is the prime consideration which has recently led me to refuse all worship of personalities, and which has lately made me put principles in the foreground of my own quest. I have bought this lesson in the open mart of bitter experience. I shall sell it to my readers for a mere fraction of what it has cost me. I beg of them therefore to remember it, and not to let themselves be led astray.
My happiest moments have been spent either in mental quiescence or in mental creation.
It is also a historic fact that even where the Sanskrit originals are still inaccessible or wholly lost everywhere in Asia, many are saved for posterity in their existing Tibetan or Chinese translations. The consequence of these discoveries was that I later perceived the fundamental necessity of completing these researches in a wider field, taking these other parts of Asia into my orbit. I therefore pursued my investigations in such countries as Japan, China, Cambodia, Sikkim, Siam, and was finally fortunate enough to receive personally from the hands of a high lama of the Mongolian Buddhist order, as well as from an initiate in the Tibetan order, the esoteric key which unlocked several of the contradictions which had heretofore puzzled me. The above explanation is essential to make clear to Indian readers that I am no follower of their Advaita Vedanta school alone; I have taken the hidden teaching in all its integral fullness and refused to limit myself to those fragments of it which are alone available in present-day India. All Asia and not merely a part of it is now the repository of this teaching.
I do not say that my researches have reached completeness. I say only that they have reached a point which is sufficient for my present needs.
I have for years been carrying on the work of spiritual exploration. Some of it has led through dusky twilit lands of metaphysics where the right direction was often in doubt, and some of it has led through dangerous jungles in the mind's hinterland.
I have written in these pages as simply and as directly as I could about something that is real, about experiences that are not less every human being's right because few have claimed that right.
I can hear some readers of the foregoing pages murmuring because they have permitted me to carry them up into the uncertain region of cloudland. Since I intend to waft them even dangerously higher, it may be well to give a few pages' respite and take stock of certain mundane matters which have their affiliations hereunto.
The author is neither a professional scientist nor an academic philosopher nor a theoretical theologian. He does not claim to have had the highly specialized training which would really fit him to write authoritatively upon the subjects pertaining to such men. Therefore in entering their domains he feels himself to be an intruder, whom they will necessarily treat with scorn and contempt. He does claim, however, that what books and dons have not taught him, life has taught. Through intense and wide living and deep reflection thereon, he has come to the perception of a true science, to the recognition of a true philosophy, and to the realization of a true theology. No don and no book can go farther than that, farther than TRUTH. The fashionable theories of our time have their entrances and make their exits, but there is an enduring Truth which outlives all change. Hence what is set down here through inward vision and uncommon experience bears its own authority and will convey its own trustworthiness to whomsoever is ripe to receive it.
This little pastel-covered notebook accompanied me everywhere in those times of search, study, travel, and expectation.
If some men give life in wartime service of their country, this man gives it truth. If his message is not heeded, appreciated, or understood, that is no reason for belittling the service he has tried to render. Any man may give his life whereas only the man who has won to perception of truth can give it to his fellows.
While they argue about the truth of these writings from the outside, I experience it joyously from the inside.
During these sacred communions I receive philosophic revelations or take delivery of celestial messages. It is understood that they are not for my own benefit, and that in due course I will pass them on to others.
I may have a long way to go yet but I have at least found the right direction.
He reached a higher degree of proficiency than many "authorities" because he was constantly at pains to verify every doctrine over long periods of time before he incorporated it into his own written work. His pages were written from firsthand experience; they were not copied wholesale from other books. He was essentially an original thinker.
My experiments were performed on myself but my conclusions were not limited to them. I watched the results in many other persons. But whereas they experienced them blindly, I experienced them critically, with my analytic faculties alert.
I went both abroad on land and sea as well as within mind and heart. The higher Self, the soul, God--whatever name we like to call it by--was the object of my quest. My findings were shared in my books and interviews.
I endeavoured to bring the theoretical principles and inner experiences of mental quiet into a thoroughly scientific form. This could only be possible by approaching them with complete impartial objectivity, with an attitude of mind that was sternly critical and yet profoundly sympathetic wherever criticism or sympathy were called for.
I write out of no other authority than my own metaphysical reflections, my own mystical experiences, my own studies and observations of other people's spiritual quests--ancient, medieval, and modern--throughout the world. Much of what I have described, here or elsewhere, has been what I myself have experienced. If nothing else hinted it, surely the precision of my statements, the vividness of my phrases, and the reality of my descriptions hint at firsthand experience? If I did not know from personal knowledge the course which this quest usually takes, if I had not endured its crushing darknesses and sacrificial anguish, its perplexing distresses and tantalizing oscillations--as much as its dazzling illuminations and unforgettable ecstasies, its benedictory graces and healing serenity--surely I could not have written about it as I did?
The shadows were falling all around me but still I was reluctant to switch on the lamp and dispel the half-gloom. For the stilled mind kept me in a stilled body, fastened to the chair by invisible cords.
If this were merely an idealistic message it would hardly be worth its ink. In the result such a thing would be a fine but futile effort. But because it is based on the firmest of facts, because it is truly scientific, I have taken the trouble of writing it down.
I sought and gained knowledge to impart it to the world and deliberately enmeshed myself in experience to share it with the world.
One day it will be recognized even by the academic world how much pioneer spade-work I have done in this metaphysical field, even as I had already done in the mystical field.
There is need of more personal experience in religion during the coming era. The old beliefs are too faded and the object of their worship too remote. It is only the spiritual leaders capable of helping others to realize such an experience who can show mankind the way to a true external peace. But if mankind do not listen in sufficient numbers to the few leaders who are now available, then their sufferings will not abate but rather continue and worsen. People do not realize the importance of such work as we are doing, because they rely on external methods too much and on internal ones not enough. Wrong thoughts and false beliefs being at the root of their troubles, only correct thought and true beliefs will bring them out of such troubles. The philosopher's work is to make this remedy available to them. There he stops for he will not force it down their throats. Nor could he.
The message and the marketplace
It is not for me to play any spectacular part in the present epoch. I have not issued these books for any propagandist purpose. Mine is a specialist's task working in a special field. But despite all this, it will not be easy for anyone to run a measuring-rod over the amount of work done. I have set ripples going but how far they will spread is the concern of destiny. P.B.'s body will pass away but his ideas will go on working. For these ideas have taken hold in some minds, who in turn will transmit them to other minds and another generation. The legacy of ideas which he toiled over during his lifetime will be with them long after his passing from this earthly plane.
If these pages can but recall a few people to the paramount importance of philosophical culture, can sustain in them large hopes for their own future as for that of mankind, can keep before them a shining vision in the darkness, the effort will find justification.
Whoever thinks that these talks present him only with mere abstractions is greatly mistaken; they really deal in things that are vital to human beings because they are the foundation things of life. Properly understood, these "abstractions" will help people to more successful living. Whoever will endeavour to translate the ideas of this psychological technique into action will find his prize in equipoised existence, inner peace, and spiritual power.
If this message is false, you cannot know this until you have fully investigated it, for to come to conclusions before thorough examinations is unworthy of a thinking person. If this message is true, then it is of colossal importance to the world, and to you.
The teaching which is particularly expressed in my books is not, so far as I know, imparted by any individual who is accessible to the general public; nor is there any institution to develop the capacities of learners along these lines. This situation exists because the teaching traverses its own unique field. None other approaches life from quite the same standpoint.
Some of these ideas are too new, others too old. Some, in their impact upon the public mind, have not gone beyond rousing curiosity, whereas others have gained ardent sympathy.
Those who would put this account aside as a mere dream and who would lay this printed record down as purely fantastic will have their ideas compulsorily changed within the while of a decade or less. There is no dream here. Nothing is more substantial than the eternal truth of man's spiritual existence. Nothing could be more real than the experiences which come to him when he can unchain the mind from the dense vibrations of the fleshly body.
We have a message for this age and we shall descend into the marketplace and give it. Hitherto, few would listen to the mystic's message, for he was unable or unwilling to explain it in terms of a practical application to the need of the hour.
In the long run and after I have gone from this earth, it is my work which shall vindicate me, for a pioneer achievement like that cannot be hidden.
The thoughts phrased in this book may yet enlighten the world and bring about a stranger change than any history has hitherto witnessed.
It is a fact, and an indisputable one, that my writings have set many people on the Quest for the first time.
To a large extent, I created my own audience for these books. This in turn was a pioneering work which induced others to emulate my journeys or copy my writings--not only literally as to subject, style, and even words, but in their own several ways. I know also, from the evidence which continually came up, that this work brought many in every part of the Occident to appreciate Oriental thought for the first time.
The work of providing copies of P.B.'s books for local public libraries where they are not yet available is a constructive one. It is a more effective method of spiritual propagation than costlier methods. It breeds good karma.
We must press this message forward, and we must persist with our pressure; but whether the world wants to accept it now, or will perforce want to accept it after its crisis, is less our concern than the world's.
I shall tie myself to none of the tattered fragments of organized religions which exist today. The exposition of truth I shall attempt to give will be along absolute lines, not the relative and veiled presentations of the past. My impulsive pen holds out little promise of soothing readers into somnolence with dead thoughts; rather will I let it leap beyond the bounds of prudence and startle them every third page with new or vigorous ideas. Finally, the main task must ever remain to announce anew the old truth of man's in-dwelling God.
That so slight a cause as a few pages of printed matter should lead to so serious a result as giving a totally new direction to some people's lives, is one reason why writing has come to mean for me a ministry whose character is almost as sacred as any vocation could be.
They will need to study these pages repeatedly until the ideas expressed therein seem lucid and logical, rational and persuasive to them.
Those who imagine this book contains a mere set of vague and ineffective words, flung out for public notice for a time only, to die down and disappear before the next craze for a mystery novel, are doomed to sorry disillusionment. History itself will echo every warning made here, and prove every point.
We had aroused a few minds to the needs of considering such age-old questions about human and universal existence, and if we had initiated a few more into unfamiliar methods of meditation, then these efforts would have justified themselves. But evidence has accumulated that those who have been directly touched number not a mere few but scores of thousands, whilst those who have been indirectly touched must number hundreds of thousands.
I wish therefore to put before readers the fundamentals of this hidden philosophy in concise form and plain phrasing, to substitute a brief bird's-eye view of the whole matter, which--though it may leave some stony places of thought difficult to climb over--will nevertheless put them in possession of the basic principles and provide them with an Ariadne's thread to guide them through the maze of life and its problems of reflection and of experience. Nay, even if I fail to do this but succeed only in kindling within them something of that love of Truth, that passionate quest for the meaning of all life, of all experience, and of all this wonderful world, I shall have accomplished enough to justify our coming together in these pages.
However interesting these ideas may be to some people, they will probably ask, "Can we extract any personal meaning, if not value, from them?"
After all, if this teaching helps some readers penetrate the mystery of the higher power even just a little, it will really help them a lot.
In writing this book to tell what I know of God, I am simply trying to tell other people about the possibilities of their own spiritual growth and to emphasize what has been said before: that through cultivation of their intuitive feelings and obedience to the disciplinary higher laws, they too may know the Overself.
If yesterday we had to travel in a lonely wilderness, today we have the pardonable satisfaction of observing others gradually shaping their ideas along the lines we had previously laid down.
The shadows of slaughter have fallen everywhere. Of what is all this the result? Ignorance! Those who know what life means and why we are here are lamentably few. The millions perish in darkness. There is, therefore, no better service for him nowadays than to contribute the knowledge he has gained in the hope that it will alleviate the dark corners of the world of their distresses. I say "corners" deliberately, for the world at large will be too insensitive to him.
This book is the "gospel" and not the "grammar." It proposes to show direction, to give a stimulus, but it does not profess to go into many details and to explain a thousand minor values and methods. This is not to say that the "grammar" is not necessary or that it will not be written.
I have filled this book with generalizations and denuded it of details, and I have done this of set aim, because I believe it wants Aspiration, Direction, and Purpose more than it wants trivial targets at which to shoot its thoughts and exertions. So, if I be accused of excessive generalization, of giving little data and less details, I plead guilty! The absence of facts and figures is explained more by my candid confession that I write to reach the intuitions of a few people alone, and less by a dogmatic assertion that these proposals are prophetic, in that they reveal the inevitable trend of our times and will come into being whether we work for them or not. I am trying to fix in the minds of those readers who will try to think with me for a while a sense of the direction we need to take in thus restoring our spiritual fortunes.