Response to a vital need
These teachings have appeared in the world in their present form and at the present time because they correspond to a genuine need of a certain section of humanity.
These teachings have been released, not to gain proselytes--although they will come--but primarily to help seekers who are already familiar with the first principles of mysticism.
The age of esotericism has come to an end and the age of open teaching is upon us. The hierophants of ancient Egypt were very cunning in the methods they adopted to hide their knowledge and even invented two kinds of symbolic alphabets, the hieroglyphic and the hieratic, for the use of themselves, their students, and initiated members of the aristocracy, leaving the common demotic alphabet for the use of the masses. The Brahmins of India severely punished any one among them who revealed their teachings to the multitude. Most of the lama masters of Tibet made candidates for instruction undergo a long probation before the higher teachings were communicated to them. The necessity of reserve was strongly impressed upon his followers by Pythagoras, so that his own and their writings are involved in obscurity, covered with symbolism, and often misleading if taken literally. But times have changed since those ancient days. Brahmin writers have revealed their own religious system to the world. The ashrams of great Yogis publish, in books accessible to all who can read, the sayings and teachings of the Yogi masters. The Tibetan adepts sent Blavatsky to the West to disseminate a part of their teaching through Theosophy. From these and other instances it should be clear that the old policy of secrecy has been abandoned. There are not only intellectual reasons for this change in policy--such as the general diffusion of learning and literacy as masses who could not formerly read or write are everywhere acquiring or have acquired these abilities--but also a much more important one: humanity itself is faced with such a tremendous peril that the peril of divulging the divine mysteries is small by comparison. The discovery of atomic power has placed in its hands a weapon with which it threatens to destroy itself, to eradicate its society, and to eliminate its civilization from the face of this planet. In these tragic and unprecedented circumstances, it is a duty laid upon philosophy to come to the help of those individuals, however few, who are sufficiently impressed by the gravity of their situation, whether before or after the great destruction has taken place, to seek for the true sources of life, guidance, strength, and grace as their only refuge, their only salvation.
These truths, which were formerly kept wholly esoteric and narrowly confined to an intellectually privileged elite, must now be given to the widest possible audience because humanity's position is so precarious. The old secrecy has outlived its usefulness.
If the truth in all its fullness is given out indiscriminately and promiscuously, we may expect results of a mixed good and bad character. Some of the bad sort we are already seeing in the strange stew which associated Zen Buddhistic enlightenments with liquor, drugs, sexual promiscuity, and antisocial rejection of responsibility. If the times in which we live were not so critical as they are, it would not be right or wise to let everyone, even the deformed in character and the deficient in capacity, come into knowledge of the truth. But the times being what they are, this is a risk that must be taken, a price that must be paid for the service that will thus be rendered to the ready and the worthy who seek the real salvation.
Whatever misinterpretation or misuse will be made by unready persons of the teachings thus disclosed, enough compensation will be achieved by the benefit conferred on those who are ready.
It is the business of philosophy to cast out error and establish truth. This takes it away from the popular conceptions of religion. Philosophy by its very nature must be unpopular; hence it does not ordinarily go out of its way to spread its ideas in the world. Only at special periods, like our own, when history and evolution have prepared enough individuals to make a modest audience, does philosophy promulgate such of its tenets as are best suited to the mind of that period.(P)
Whatever were the motives which dictated the exclusive reservation of ultimate wisdom in former centuries and the extraordinary precautions which were taken to keep it from the larger world, we must now reckon on the dominant fact that humanity lives today in a cultural environment which has changed tremendously. The old ideas have lost their weight among educated folk--except for individuals here and there--and this general decay has passed by reflex action among the masses, albeit to a lesser extent. Whether in religion or science, politics or society, economics or ethics, the story of prodigious storm which has shaken the thoughts of men to their foundations is the same. The time indeed is transitional. In this momentous period when the ethical fate of mankind is at stake because the religious sanctions of morality have broken down, it is essential that something should arise to take their place. This is the supreme and significant fact which has forced the hands of those who hold this wisdom in their possession, which has compelled them to begin this historically unique disclosure of it, and which illustrates the saying that the night is darkest just before dawn. This is the dangerous situation which broke down an age-old policy and necessitated a new one whose sublime consequences to future generations we can now but dimly envisage.(P)
This is a period when esoteric pretensions are out of joint with the times, when direct communication is to be the rule or else none at all, if anything of value is really to be given to the world. Those zealous protectors of the truth who surround it with enigma and riddle, who hide it under out-of-date symbols and unnecessary jargon, forget that they live now in an age of science, not an age of medievalism.
It is claimed that esotericism is essential to protect truth from adulteration and mankind from bewilderment and miscomprehension. This is true. But it is not true for all time--not for our own time.
The work done by science and rationalism has been a necessary one, but it was destructive of religious codes and consequently of moralities based on those codes. Mankind must now perform a piece of constructive work in the sphere of ethics or it may experience a social collapse of colossal magnitude. It is here that the hidden teaching can step in and offer a valuable contribution.
When this secrecy was overdone, either for selfish monopolizing reasons or through rigid inherited traditions, the masses were permanently excluded not only from the knowledge for which they are unfit but also from that for which they have, by the processes of evolution, become ready. The end result was to keep them permanently ignorant, to prevent them from growing as quickly as, with encouragement, they could have grown, and to confuse their minds.
The inborn potential of fitness for this knowledge may be larger than appears on the surface, where family, surroundings, circumstances, and false religion may prevent its liberation and development. The concept of reincarnation explains why this is possible, but it also explains why all reserves and potentials are not equal, nor equally liberated, and therefore why some discrimination must be practised. But this should be tentative, not final--flexible, not rigid. For it is not so easy as most believe to predict the course of future inner growth for a person. If he is unable or unwilling to absorb this knowledge now, he might be able to do so in ten years' time. The essential thing is to shut no one out from its offering, not to hide its very existence from people, as certain religious circles have done in the past.
Philosophy cannot escape being as affected by our iconoclastic times as any other form of culture. It does not and cannot live in a history-tight compartment. Consequently when it witnesses the spectacle of the common people more and more taking the future in their own hands, more and more being liberated from patriarchal modes of ecclesiastical government, more and more having to stand on their own spiritual feet, it cannot waste its time in deploring the inevitable. Instead, it must set about reducing the causes which have hitherto prevented it from having a popular appeal and simplifying the presentation which has hitherto made it the monopoly of a superior few. It must ally itself with the people and sincerely strive to bring out their finer potentialities and assist them to rise to a level where they can better understand it. This it must do if it is to be true to itself, to its own noble ideals and divine mission.
It is a Brahminical notion that because minds young in evolution cannot grasp the higher intellectual truths, they should therefore be taught nothing but intellectual falsehoods. This has been their practice, and the degradation of the masses is a living witness to the unwisdom of this extreme practice. Philosophical verities have been carefully hidden from the millions and made the preserve of a mere few. The others have been given a grossly materialistic religion and an ethical code based on utter superstition. The consequence is that now Western ideas and modern education are beginning to spread their ripples beyond the cities to the villages and beyond the better classes to the illiterates. The moral power of religion is breaking down and the miserable masses are being left without anything better than incipient hopelessness and the educated classes without anything better than bitter cynicism. How much wiser would it have been to make the fruits of philosophy available to those who sought them, how much wiser to have carefully taught at least some of the truth about life to these younger minds instead of hiding all truth from them so completely that when the more intelligent ones wake up and discover how they have been deceived, the sudden shock of disillusionment unbalances them utterly and leaves them without ideals and with revolutionary destructive instincts. Too much concealment of the truth has led to the disaster of Bolshevik and Nazi reactions. Too much shielding of undeveloped minds from the facts of existence has left them prey to the worst superstitions and the most harmful charlatanry in the fields of thought and action. The doctrine of secrecy must not be pushed to foolish limits. Let us face the fact that man's mentality has grown and let us give it nourishment suited to its age. If the easier principles of philosophic truth are taught gradually and led up to from the superstitious dogmas which merely symbolize them, the slow revelation will not unsettle the minds of people but on the contrary will strengthen them against wrong-doing and nurture their own self-reliance.
The duty to which we are called is not to propagate ideas but to offer them, not to convert reluctant minds but to satisfy hungry ones, not to trap the bodies of men into external organizations but to set their souls free to find truth. There are individuals today to whom these teachings are unknown but who possess in the deeper levels of their mind latent tendencies and beliefs, acquired in former lives, which will leap into forceful activity as soon as the teaching is presented to them.
In the twentieth century such secrecy has become superfluous. The deepest truths of man's inner nature have already been published to the whole world. The most recondite teachings have been publicly proclaimed in nearly every modern language.
The age of esotericism is past. With the world-menace darkening every year, Truth can no longer hide herself in an obscure corner. She must now speak forth challengingly and boldly to the public consciousness.
It is true that the differences of evolutionary grades must be respected. It is true that the mass of people are children spiritually. But it is also true that children can be taught something and led a few steps onward however low their grade. Moreover, we live in times when the old evil forces are so active only because they feel the approach of new and good ones.
The evolutionary trend wins out whether we like it or not. Plato in Greece, the Brahmins in India, wanted to keep knowledge and therefore education within the ranks of a few. Their reasons were solid enough at the time. But in this epoch the trend is different, for we do not live in a static universe. It is in the direction of more knowledge and more education for more men, women, and children. This applies on every level from the most physical and technical to the most spiritual.
Will the masses ever come of cultural and spiritual age? Can the common man ever find enough nourishment in true philosophic ideas? Yes, this can happen if those at the top accept truth, for sooner or later their ideas filter downward, even if somewhat thinned by the process of popularization.
The thinking of the toiling masses is perhaps beyond its influence, but the thinking of those who rule, lead, teach, and direct those masses is not. Therefore it aims primarily at penetrating the minds of those few.
In the end philosophy is not only for the minority of well-educated minds or for the elite of the persons refined by culture, upbringing, innate sensitivity, but also for the majority who can take it in partially; here and there some points can be grasped and accepted. Properly presented with psychological perception of the audience's disposition, nature, capacities, knowledge, and faith, it can be linked up with what they already hold, dovetailed in, and built up further.
In an era when the turn of the karmic wheel brought democracy to the ascendant, we had to expect and must accept that philosophy would be brought within the reach of the masses. The old days when a tiny elite of cultured persons of high character and high capacity were alone teaching and learning it have passed. It is public culture and not private. Just as television and radio have brought sports and races into the homes of everybody, so they will bring philosophy to those who are willing to listen to talks about it--whether fit or not. In an attempt to make it more understandable to the masses, it will have to suffer some measure of adulteration, perhaps even falsification; but the instincts of the masses will of course keep them listening to what is appropriate for them--sports and the races--rather than to explanations and expositions of philosophy. The point, however, is simply this: that there is nothing secret today about philosophy and those who attempt to turn it into a system of occult secrets for the few are out of tune with the times. They will be swept aside by the Aquarian Age which is only just now beginning, the age when knowledge will be freely dispensed to all and when the mind of man will measurably grow and develop in rising to this new opportunity.
The world's need today is not really for more new ideas, which means more thoughts, but for more wisdom, which means how to manage the thoughts which humanity has already accumulated through the centuries.
It is only if the level of public feeling and intelligence is raised that the basic truths of philosophy could come into wider acceptance.
The mass-intellect was not yet then developed enough, nor educated enough, and hence not yet capable enough, to understand a teaching so universal, so impersonal, and so utterly nonmaterialistic. But is it able to do so now? The answer is that it still cannot understand fully and properly; it is, however, better able to do so partially.
What was right in the medieval days of religious persecution and in the antique days of popular illiteracy, is no longer right in twentieth-century days of religious freedom and popular education. Mysticism must not continue to seclude itself. It must find outer expression and emanate inner influence.
The old rule that a teaching must be limited to the spiritual and intellectual measure of those to whom it is addressed cannot be discarded but it may be expanded and liberalized.
If it is to be popularized, this must be done under some reserves, to protect its own purity and integrity. But these reserves need not and ought not be as large and forbidding as they often have been in the past. The extraordinary times in which we live, the world-wide area of the crisis, and the nature of the crisis itself require this liberalization.
If these thoughts are to carry any value they ought to be in rhythm with the World-Idea; their theme ought to celebrate what it is giving out to all the denizens of this globe.
Although it is primarily a teaching for those who are somewhat advanced in the cultural scale, it has many points which are simple enough for anyone to grasp.
The worth of philosophy can be rightly appraised and appreciated only by mentalities that are equal to it in intelligence morality and subtlety. No others are really competent to judge it. Then is it solely for a mere handful? No, for what we are unable to take hold of by full sight we may still take hold of by well-placed faith.
That a proportion of the masses, if only given the chance, would rise to an acceptance of the higher truth--a larger proportion than is generally believed, even though it would still be a minority--is a situation which the history of the past few centuries, the contemporary invention and menace of the atomic bomb and nuclear missile, and the ferment in religious circles and religious ideas have combined to create. It is a new era, yes, but the seekers and the awakeners enter it to their own danger. For they lack the moral preparation and correct mental instruction; it is easy to enter by the wrong door: then confusion, folly, fanaticism, or hallucination mix well into whatever bit of truth is found. The risk is there. We see it plainly enough today, when the drug-takers are also taking over the truth.
In this age of plain speaking, universal education, religious tolerance, and popular uplift, secrecy has not only become irrelevant but even sinful.
The hidden teaching can no longer afford to be deprecated by religionists and despised by rationalists. It can no longer be confined to a few intelligentsia but must be brought to them, even if it be necessary to placate popular opinion by over-emphasizing personal benefits and to make concessions to contemporary knowledge by over-emphasizing the scientific standpoint. For more people are ready to discard antiquated doctrines than would seem likely. And the dangers which formerly attended the promiscuous disclosure of such information have largely vanished. The days when Krishna could speak of having taught this wisdom, which goes beyond ordinary knowledge, as a secret to kings only, or when the high priests of Egypt could initiate Pharaohs and nobles alone, have gone, not to be recalled.
The fact that the principles of the hidden teaching are now given out publicly and openly, whereas in former centuries they had to be given out secretly and privately, must be carefully appraised. If it indicates progression in one sense, it also indicates retrogression in another. It shows that greater opportunities for intellectual and spiritual freedom exist today, but it also shows that the power of religious institutions and faith in religious truth have waned.
We do not need to persuade or convert others to philosophy but we ought to offer them the material which they can investigate as and when they feel inclined to do so.
If these truths are too solemn to be made the subject of cheap publicity, too profound to be comprehensible to everyone alike, they can at least be introduced unobtrusively.
Philosophy was formerly the esoteric possession of a select elite. No attempt was made to popularize it. The reasons given for this were serious and convincing. But in some respects the situation has changed so largely that a reconsideration of this attitude has become necessary. The literacy and the leisure needed for its study have appeared. The confusion in the minds of religious believers and the weakening of ecclesiastical authority which it could easily have caused, are conditions which have already appeared of themselves through other causes.
From the moment that these teachings were printed and circulated, they became public property and lost their esoteric character.
If the millions have no taste for truth, it is partly because they have never been offered the chance to acquire it. If they prefer the debased and debauched, it is partly because they have been schooled to appreciate them.
The great advances in human intellect and scientific knowledge, the great collapses of religious institutions, the widespread propaganda for political and economic movements which have captured the faith and following that earlier went into religion--these things have by themselves made the self-revealing of the hidden philosophy most necessary. But the grave moral and physical perils which surround us today make it still more necessary.
The teaching is not usually or at first comprehensible to the multitude. But given time and some systematic and purposeful training, it could be made comprehensible to them. They have in the past been underrated, their potentialities neglected. The duty of guiding and elevating these supposed morons has been selfishly unperceived. Responsibility ought to accompany privilege.
Those who do not like philosophy and cannot understand it are simply not ready for it. We cannot compel them to take it up. But we can keep it available for them, whenever the time comes that they do feel a need for it.
Its message must not only be made clear for the unfamiliar but also vivid for the insensitive.
To treat the masses as feeble-minded, incapable of understanding truth and fit only to be nourished on falsehood, is to disregard two facts: first, their evolutionary character; second, their inner identity with truth's divine source. Why disguise or dilute? Why appeal only to their lowest and dullest? If you reach their highest and best once out of twenty tries, this is much better and more important than never reaching it at all. This was Emerson's way.
The time has come when it is dangerous not to divulge these straight truths to everybody but to keep them back from everybody. The lack of spiritual reverence and the lowness of moral tone, the ignorance of karmic consequences and the violence of greed and hatred--these are the things today which are immensely dangerous to humanity--not the divulgements of philosophy.
The whole of philosophy cannot be disseminated quickly and easily to the masses. But this is not to be used as an excuse to do nothing at all for them.
The time has come to bring these truths out into the open, to declare them publicly, to remember that the periods for esotericism are past, and to cease playing the game of concealment. Otherwise a third world war remains a menace.
Today every seeker is welcome to philosophy's ranks provided he or she be sincere and qualified.
A more timely formulation
A fresh spiritual impulse, a fresh revelation of the Eternal Truth which inheres in the very nature of the world's essence, must be given shape and form.
A portion of what was formerly the possession of a small exclusive elite is now ripe to become the possession of the common people themselves. A fragment of what was exceptional wisdom in antiquity is ready to be regarded as ordinary knowledge in modernity.
The message of philosophy has never been appropriate to any particular time, because it has always been above all historic times. Nevertheless modern man will find more in it than ancient or medieval man could ever find or get.
Metaphysics in its finest form of presentation could never have confronted us before this twentieth century. All knowledge and all history have been moving towards this grand cultural climax. We have had foregleams and approximations, summaries and condensations of the hidden metaphysics ever since man began to record his thoughts; but we have never had the opportunity of a detailed working-out of its every point until science appeared to provide the data which now render this possible. Magnificent indeed are the vistas now opened up to us.
It was as fitting as it was inevitable that such a picture of the universe should have been created in the West and that the rejection of all pictures in favour of merging in the nothingness of Nirvana should have dominated the East. Now, with the perspective of both hemispheres' histories behind us, and with the opportunity to become adequately and accurately familiar with both hemispheres' knowledge--an opportunity which could not arise before this twentieth century--the time has come for a balanced attitude towards them and for an integral union of what is complementary in them.
The mystic must not be averse to modern culture, which he often naturally despises as materialistic or abhors as atheistic. He must draw on the resources of twentieth-century knowledge to reinforce, develop, explain, expand, and restate the dusty traditional inheritance of mysticism. He ought not to exalt the mighty illuminated past at the expense of a so-called degenerated benighted present.
To deny that our wits have been sharpened and our interpretive methods improved during the thousands of years which have disappeared into the waters that flow down the Ganges would be to libel the human mind and to turn it into a helpless stone. And when, as so often happened in the Orient, the static custodians of traditional culture were so bemused by their bookshelves that they refused to adapt their doctrines to the needs of the time, they were carrying conservatism to the point of plain silliness. On the other hand, service of the present need not be accompanied by a funeral dirge on the past. Ancient culture and modern science ought to be wedded together if we are to unlock the higher wisdom. Is not modern research unconsciously already beginning to furnish new proofs of ancient tenets? We need the old truths, not the old follies. A thought which is ten minutes old might be truer than a thought which is ten thousand years old. What has truth to do with time?
During the whole of my literary activity I have tried to develop this idea of a close collaboration between the rational and emotional sides of man's nature. This notion arose not merely because I have witnessed at first hand the tragic disasters of human lives wrecked through foolish and wholesale rejection of the claims of reason, but also because I perceive the immense importance of entering into an alliance with the trend towards science which has come to dominate modern existence.
Humanity has not stood still during all these thousands of years. It has decisively changed in most ways, evolved in some ways, and degenerated in others. This is clear when we consider its outer life, but not so clear when we consider its inner life. It will be better grasped if we pause to note that a twentieth-century teaching in its fullness would have been unsuitable for an ancient seeker. Indeed, it would be something which he could assimilate only in part; the rest would be beyond his capacity. When men and women have been brought up only to obey blindly the dead teachers of vanished centuries and never to think anything out for themselves, their true development is hampered. Hence the ancient ideas and practices, which were excellent for the ancient peoples, are not adequate to the needs of today's historical situation.
Philosophy of today must be based upon the bedrock of scientific facts.
Where else can philosophy get its proper start except in experienced data?
We have to create an intellectual world-view which can be adequate enough to meet criticism or defend itself against all the other intellectual world-views of our time. But whereas the philosophic one is spiritual in the truest sense, these others are either frankly materialistic or superstitiously mystical. Those adherents of religio-mystic doctrines who have failed to appreciate the importance of such work, as well as those who have even sharply criticized it, reveal by their attitude a narrowness which is surely not the mark of authentic spirituality.
There has not been so far any school whose outlook was broad enough to take in the philosophical one, nor whose inspiration was deep enough. The time will come when to provide for this deficiency will be laid as a duty on someone's mind, nor can it be far off.
The immediate task today is for philosophy to deliver its message. The secondary task is to assist those who accept this message to come to a proper and adequate understanding of it. The first is for the multitude and hence public. The second is for the individual and hence private.
A jealously guarded hidden teaching far more advanced and complicated than the present one will be revealed by its custodians before this century closes. But when this does occur, the revelation will only extend and not displace the foundation for it which is given in these pages.
As a necessary result of all that has gone before, someone will have to face this task of establishing a school of thought that will synthesize the Oriental teachings with the scientific Occidental discoveries. The teaching will have to be delivered impersonally, as it is in schools of chemistry and physics, without establishing that personal dependence of which Indians are so enamoured but of which a philosopher is unable to approve.
The spiritual seekers who followed René Guénon and the poets who followed T.S. Eliot fell into the same trap as their leaders. For in protesting, and rightly, against the anarchy of undisciplined and unlimited freedom, both Guénon and Eliot retreated backwards into formal tradition and fixed myth. Both had served their historic purpose and were being left behind. Both men were brilliant intellectuals and naturally attracted a corresponding type of reader. Their influence is understandable. But it is not on the coming wave of the Aquarian Age. New forms will be needed to satisfy the new knowledge, the new outlook, the new feelings. The classical may be respected, even admired; but the creative will be followed.(P)
This is a pioneer work, this making of a fresh synthesis which draws from, but does not solely depend upon, the knowledge of colleagues scattered in different continents as well as the initiations of masters belonging to the most different traditions.(P)
Today the seeker finds offered to him the culture of the whole world. The wisdom of many civilizations has been bequeathed to him from the past, from long-gone eras as also those more recent in time or distant in space. How fortunate is his position in these ways!
This grand synthesis could have come into being only in this twentieth century--that is, after science had been brought by facts to destroy its own fetish of "matter" and only after the secret philosophic book of the Brahmins had been wrested from their grasp.
Wisdom requires that we throw emphasis on those aspects of the teaching which will make most appeal to the contemporary mind. It also requires that we bring forward those features which are most pertinent to modern needs. For this reason it is desirable that Truth should be restated.
Our beliefs must assume a clearer form in this rational age. Whatever is true in them need not fear such remodelling. Modern science hints at confirmation of the age-old intuitions of religion and mysticism. During the past hundred years man has accumulated enough scientific detail to make a worthy system of knowledge, but he still lacks the guiding principle of putting the details together. Only the higher philosophy offers this principle.
When we think of the tremendous alteration which has taken place in the educated man's conception of the world and when we think of the tremendous social economic and political changes which have followed as a consequence, we may begin to grasp something of the significance which should be assigned to this first public Western and modern presentation of the hidden teaching.
The needs of this age emphatically demand action in the outer world. Quite a few people of talent, position, vision, or influence have adopted these views, and will take their place in the forefront of things when the destined hour of the New Age sweeps down.
So many today are busy studying the ancient and medieval systems of mysticism that it might be prudent to pause for a moment and consider whether we, today, in the altered conditions under which we now live, do not need a more timely formulation of mystical practice and theory and training--something which still keeps what really matters and what really must matter in all such systems, but discards the accretions, the non-essentials, the obsolete, and which even invents new forms to suit the modern demands upon us.
The correct attitude is neither anti-Indian nor pro-Western. It is universalist. It considers that both cultures have valuable contributions to make. But it also considers that the time is ripe for a thoroughly universal attitude which refuses to identify itself with either of these two standpoints but rather takes a third which is superior to both, because creatively formed to suit the new present-day needs.
In the days when racial cultures were isolated from each other, a world-wide synthesis of mystical teachings was impossible.
The time has come for creative rather than interpretative endeavour, for something appropriate to the twentieth century and shaped to the lives of modern peoples.
It is well attuned to the twentieth century for it reflects the individualization of human thinking which is one immediate goal which confronts the race now.
To stand aside from the general movement of world thought and to decry the great intellectual trends of today, is folly; to utilize it for the furtherance of enduring aims and to ally ourselves with modern culture, is wisdom.
No reasonable being will now prefer to accept vague uncertainty to solid certitude. Modern scientific outlook is rightly impatient of contentions which cannot be upheld with any show of fact. The sciences have now placed at the disposal of philosophy so much valuable material that the era of superstitious belief need never return.
The esoteric tradition has come down to its present state of shreds and patches but even so it is of the utmost value to the seeker after truth. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries produced situations and created circumstances which began to force its disclosure. The twentieth century has continued this activity and yielded new materials.
From being not even a name to the masses, from being either a chimera or an enigma to those for whom it is a name, philosophy will become a respected fact, even though its practice will, as always, be a matter for the few.
The studies in comparative religion, the research in the psychology of religious experience, the implications of atomic physics--all these are bringing in a new atmosphere, wherein truth becomes clearer.
Beliefs which suited the days when men lived in a forest clearing will not suit the days when he lives in a scientific civilization. Consequently the hidden teaching, which in former times would have dashed in vain against the mass dullness, may now make a remarkable impact on the group of matured minds.
To expect a complete and world-wide acceptance of such an advanced teaching is to expect the impossible, for there are great gaps in comprehension and fitness between the simple and the elite. But the vast spread of education and the hunger for knowledge have created larger audiences who want to move forward more quickly.
Medieval or Oriental mystical statements which are quite true but which fail to move us today will lose nothing if their essence is put into topical terms.
When history has given our own times their proper perspective, the re-entry of philosophy into its rightful place in human thinking, and especially of its picture of the evolutionary World-Idea, will take its place along with such far-reaching innovations as jet propulsion.
With the coming of this twentieth century, scientific thought has moved up startlingly near to philosophical metaphysics, while popular thought is really less distant from philosophical religion than it appears to be.
The ideology of such an advanced philosophy cannot be successfully and quickly spread by lip or pen. It can spread slowly but steadily by the force of evolutionary experience alone. Men must grow into its acceptance; they cannot be converted. Such has hitherto been the historic generalization. But the twentieth century is outstanding for the rushing tempo of its ideological development. We may rightly expect therefore that more are ready for this philosophy than ever before.
These ideas are not really new, but they have been half-forgotten or wholly overlooked. Anyway, the time is ripe to restate them. But they must be restated with electrical sparkle and spring freshness. The old forms simply will not suit us.
The age permits and demands heterodox independent thought given out with courageous frankness. It has forced us to face repressed or half-repressed thoughts and instincts and, so to speak, we have to come to terms with them. It has seen through the hollow mummery of much so-called religion.
Long-revealed truths that have only a feeble influence must be reaffirmed by inspired individuals or proven by scientific ones. Poets must celebrate them anew and religionists fit them into their credos.
Modern civilization must unite somehow the hitherto non-mixable currents of scientific thinking and social action on the one hand with the mystical and individual path of self-development on the other.
Philosophy may be--indeed must be--written afresh for every fresh generation but its principles are imperishable. They cannot change. Only the methods of expounding them, only the phraseology of expressing them can change.
It is not enough to preserve this old knowledge; we must also promote its adaptation to the new science.
Insofar as it is possible to do so, why not put some of this traditional knowledge in a modern dress? And why not let it be enriched by culture, by art, even by science, so long as its great truths remain untouched and unharmed? Finally, why not humanize its practical disciplines and ethical demands, in particular its required sacrifices and worldly renunciations, and thus learn to look on them as they were among the wiser Greeks--trainings to make perceptions clearer and reactions healthier so that the mind serves truth and the animal existence is kept in its place?
Each people must find its own meaning for its own self in these teachings to suit its own conditions and experiences. None can alter the essentials which are firmly fixed, but the way in which they are presented can, and usually must, be reshaped by those conditions and experiences when the old form is obviously no longer appropriate to its changed needs.
It would be a miscomprehension to believe that because we say that a modern version of philosophy must rest on science, we mean that science alone is to be its foundation. That would be quite wrong. For it must not, need not, and cannot desert its other traditional bases such as mysticism, religion, art, and the teaching of bygone sages.
The truths which were known by Lao Tzu, Buddha, and Jesus are still valid in the conditions of today--which are so different--otherwise they would not be true. But the form of expressing them may well be different.
The essential truth of things being always the same, its restatements can never alter, its principles never become obsolete, its revelations never become false. Nevertheless, the presentation of truth must be evolutionary in its development if it is to keep pace with the development of human mentality.
The ideological presentation of the teaching will become more complex as the human mind evolves and as human knowledge itself becomes more complex.
Philosophy can give nothing original to the present-day world, but it can make alive for, and usable by, the world, truths which were faded through neglect or even discarded through ignorance.
We do not claim that an entirely new teaching has been given to the world. But we do claim that a teaching and a praxis which we found in a primitive antique form have been brought up-to-date and given a scientific modern expression, that some parts of it which were formerly half-hidden, and others wholly so, have been completely revealed and made accessible to everyone who cares for such things.(P)
We do not claim finality in the absolute sense for this exposition. History holds in her bag many "latest" forms of philosophy but no "last" form.
So long as human minds are active in this search, so long will it be true that the last word has not been spoken or written. Nor ever will it be until thinking comes to an end, the silence is entered, and being replaces it.
The wider intellectual awareness of modern man cannot comfortably accept teachings based on narrower awareness of ancient man. Yet those teachings were fundamentally correct, because both teacher and taught were closer to the heart of Nature. Moreover, because they were not so intellectually extroverted, they were closer to faith in God.
These are old truths but there is a need of making them vivid to the feeling and reasonable to the mind of twentieth-century man.
There are no schools in the higher philosophy because there are no speculations. It is not truer today than it was in Greek times for it is not the result of an evolutionary process.
Since, in the field of basic spiritual teaching, as those who have made a comparative study of it well know, there is nothing new at any time, we may only expect nothing more startling than new teachers. Let us not criticize the staleness of their revelations, but rather welcome the newness of these revelators. For each, being a different personality, set apart from all the others, necessarily individualizes what he brings us, making its form different from the form of all offerings that have come before his; it is an expression of his own unique self.
Truth can speak afresh; its terminology need not copy itself again and again: indeed if it is truly creative and inspired it could not do so.
There is room to bring a fresh understanding, a free original approach, and a personal realization of philosophy, and thus see the teaching for oneself.
Even if we do borrow as much wisdom as we can find from antiquity, we should not--when bringing it forward--forget or mistake the time in which we live, and, if possible, we should bring the old to cohere with the new. If this is not possible, accept the best wisdom.
Old teachings may have to be formulated afresh to meet new conditions. This can be done by honest, unself-seeking, unbiased persons, without any disloyalty to the teachings.
We cannot modernize truth: it would be senseless and futile to try to do so. It would also be an insult to ancient sages. But reinterpret--yes!
Whom it best serves
There are some who, by reason of innate tendencies acquired from previous existences, can find their way to spiritual peace only through Oriental paths, especially Indian ones. This is understandable and ought to be respected except when it becomes an unreasonable and unbalanced adulation. But there are others who, although largely interested in and greatly attracted by Oriental mysticism, perceive nevertheless that a more universal attitude is safer and better, and who perceive in such independence a closer approximation to the liberating effect of truth. Philosophy is for them.
Philosophy's daring religious concepts attract the young while its reflective metaphysical ones attract the middle-aged and elderly.
The number of those who devote themselves to philosophic thought and practice is not a significant one. It is indeed quite a small one. But as life on this earth will get more and more intolerable (as it is doing in this twentieth century), people will get more and more to realize that there is something wrong or lacking in the faith by which they live--be it faith in simple materialism or in orthodox religion. After they have thus started a'questioning some of them will pass to the ultimate stage and go a'questing. In the end they will arrive at philosophy because all other teachings are merely on the approach to it. In the end the number of its votaries will continually increase. But they will not, say within the next thousand years, be in any danger of becoming quite a crowd. They shall have to go on living in loneliness. They will remain a tiny minority, with the satisfaction of being less tiny than it is now. The only choice which is usually presented to us is a vicious and false one. We are asked to choose between materialism and orthodox religion, thus dividing us into the supposition that these are the only possible spiritual views which mankind can adopt. This supposition is an unjustified one. We are moving beyond them. We are no longer limited to such a narrow choice. There is a third road open to us--that of the philosophic view. Out of the clash between two such opposite attitudes, there has been born for independent thinkers a third attitude which is truer than both.
Philosophy is for those who feel this desire to understand spiritual processes and find the study quite interesting.
Such abstract mystical or metaphysical thinking is a luxury which only those who have income-producing property or funds can afford: this is a statement often heard but seldom questioned. It is one of those statements which, because they are partly true and partly false, require closer examination than others.
The theory of philosophy is suited and available to everyone who has the intelligence to grasp it, the faith to accept it, the intuition to recognize its supreme pre-eminence. The practice of philosophy is more restricted, being for those who have been sufficiently prepared by previous inner growth and outer experience to be willing to impose its higher ethical standards, mental training, and emotional discipline upon themselves. To come unprepared for the individual effort demanded, unfit for the intellectual and meditational exertions needed, unready for the teacher or the teaching, is to find bewilderment and to leave disappointed. A premature attempt to enter the school of philosophy will meet with the painful revelation of the dismaying shortcomings within oneself, which must be remedied before the attempt can be successful.(P)
Philosophy is for those who do not find enough nourishment in orthodox religion yet shrink from the emptiness of orthodox atheism as well as from the silliness of unbalanced mysticism; it is for those who have felt in the presence of Nature's grandeur or beauty intimations of a higher life and remembered the momentary exaltations induced by art, literature, or deep repose, and who aspire to further and more prolonged contact with that kind of life.
One may come under the influence of philosophy through intellectual conviction, emotional expansion, or intuitional cultivation, through mystical ecstasy or deep suffering.
It is a teaching for the person of large mind and larger heart, who is no longer satisfied with creeds or systems that are only fragmentarily true.
Philosophy is not a physically-organized sect but a movement of thought. It is for those who insist on finding a relationship with God through their own experience.
Philosophy is for those who are not satisfied with hearing an echo of echoes but who want the music of heaven directly.
Philosophy is for those who prefer to face realities free of myths, veils, and distortions; who prefer to be mentally mature and want to understand life as it is and not make a pretense of what it is not. Hence ideas which religion presents under thick incrustations of mythopoetic pictures, philosophy explains by rational thinking which leads later to intuitive understanding.
A man is not usually ready for the wisdom of philosophy until years of faith and its disappointment, hope and its frustration, desire and its satisfaction, culture and its ripening, and most of the phases which richness of experience brings with it form the mind to receive such a revelation. The middle-aged appreciate it more than the young. This does not necessarily mean, however, that all the young are barred from it. Some may have gone through these phases in former reincarnations so completely as to be well enough prepared. Even so, Nature usually sets the age of thirty or thereabouts as her requirement for initiation into philosophy.
The adherents to philosophy become so by virtue of accepting its teachings, following its practices, and cherishing its ideals. There exists no organization which they could join, no order of which they could become members. For the philosophic way is a solitary one and its traveller must venture it alone with his higher self.
One does not come into philosophy by horizontal conversion, as with religious and mystical changes of allegiance, but by upward progression. Philosophy takes no one away from any other organization for the simple reason that it is only for those who have seen through the limitations and have exhausted the usefulness of all organizations.
If a life of inward beauty and emotional serenity appeals to a man, he is ready for philosophy.
As said in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, such a teaching will at first appeal to the more educated persons and only later filter down to the less educated masses who will take from it what they can or what is of more interest to them. Whoever feels a need for some clue to life's meaning can satisfy it by philosophy whatever class he belongs to.
It is for those only who are searching for a clear light that, while revealing the inner meaning of their own life, will not obstruct the free exercise of their reasoning mind. It is for those who are busily engaged in the world's work yet feel and must satisfy a hunger for truth, a need of peace, and an aspiration toward the Overself.
Truth is for those who keep their minds at least free and independent, whatever they may have to do through the compulsion of circumstances in the outer world.
Those who cannot assimilate themselves with the materialistic civilization of today but who cannot turn back to the self-deception of orthodox religion or go forward into the fantasies of contemporary mysticism, will be able to find no refuge except in philosophy.
Its appeal is to those who, already religious, are looking for greater depths to their present belief and to those who, now unreligious, are looking for something more positive than scepticism, yet still based on reason and experience.
Philosophy is for those who seek to look well below the surface of existence; it is not for the shallow or the complacent; their egos could not bear the implacable truth which such deep search reveals.
Only the matured and prepared can gain the most from philosophy: the pathological and criminal, the unbalanced and disturbed can get more of what they need by looking elsewhere.
It is emotion which is the real and effective cause of conversion from one religion or non-religion to another, but it is inner growth which brings anyone to philosophy.
Philosophy, with such serious aims, cannot expect discriminative appreciation from those who are ever ready to pronounce judgement freely on stupendous subjects which divide studious thinkers all over the world, nor can it be useful to the light-minded who, over a cup of tea, dispose permanently of the fate of philosophical problems which have baffled the intelligentsia for centuries.
Whoever has felt in his own experience the awakening of mind, hope, perception, and faith may be ready to learn a little more about philosophy.
The religio-mystical-emotional occult-imaginative approach is for tense frustrated neurotics, whereas philosophy is for sensible sane people who have some hold of themselves and who don't forget the realities.
The undiscriminating multitude are usually satisfied with orthodox religion; the more sensitive need mysticism, but only the intelligent and determined handful want TRUTH, cost what it may. Such alone will be willing to make the effort needed to comprehend the higher message contained in the book.
If embittered heretics in orthodox religion and frustrated sufferers in personal life come to philosophy for negative reasons, hopeful seekers after truth and intelligent appraisers of value come to it for positive ones.
It is not just for academic students--although they, as human beings equipped with minds, need it too--but for all life-meaning students, all truth-seekers, all would-be reality-experiencers.
Philosophy offers itself to men of the world, although monks may take to it if they wish. It ends in inspired action, not in dull reverie.
If there is any future for a teaching it belongs to the present one. It does not have to stand on the defensive just as it does not have to use loud-speaking propagandists. Its existence is justified by humanity's essential need of knowing what it is, what the world is, and what to make of its own life. If humanity finds such needs satisfied by its orthodox religions, mysticisms, and metaphysics--why then, that is as it should be. For only when it has tried and tested them all, only when it has noted their insufficiencies and failures, only when its own mind and heart have adequately matured is it likely to appreciate our teaching. The great intellectual width of this teaching, the grand compassion which it inculcates, and the sane balance which it advocates must commend it to those enquiring minds who not only seek but are ready for the best.
Philosophy is simply mysticism grown up and become fully mature. The completeness and sanity of its tenets commend themselves therefore to the proficient rather than the novice.
The philosophic world-view will be satisfactory to those few only who do not scorn mysticism because they esteem science and who do not scorn science because they esteem mysticism.
At whatever point in the world of human knowledge we start from, if we push our investigation deeply enough, and if we try to correlate it with the general body of knowledge, we shall be brought to the consideration of philosophy.
Philosophy is not for those to whom the search for Truth does not appeal. It is not for those to whom worship is merely a conventional and respectable act. It is not for those to whom the aspiration for self-improvement is an unprofitable enterprise. It is not for those who are afraid to depart along little-travelled tracks or thoughts, thereby risking the label of being eccentric or peculiar.
The educated classes are expected to stand in the forefront of this struggle for world-enlightenment and therefore it is for the more thoughtful among them to absorb the hidden teaching.
The man who is intellectually ripe and morally ready for philosophy's explanations will not be able to hold out against them, provided he examines them carefully.
Philosophy does not have to defend itself, nor even to explain itself. It is only for those who have grown and grown until they are ready for it. They will appreciate its worth and perceive its truth without argument.
Those who like to be just and tolerant will appreciate the perfect fairness with which philosophy regards every view, doctrine, and belief.
H.G. Wells believed, and I agree with him, that few human beings are adult before the age of thirty-five, and it must be remembered that philosophy is a study for the mentally mature adult. Also philosophy is a study for the mentally strong, and the common and agreeable notion that lunatics constitute only a small part of the population is not confirmed by recent history.
Philosophy draws some of its students from the orthodox religionists but more from the unorthodox and the irreligious.
Beginners who feel they need a standpoint, a guru, and a group to provide support, guidance, comfort, and instruction may or may not profit by them. They will then find the independence of philosophy less attractive.
There are cults for all human varieties, for the infantile emotions, for the adolescent ego, for the adult animal. The developed human, who outgrows such pabulum and needs something for a higher intelligence and higher character, will inevitably and naturally look elsewhere--in science, art, literature, music, and mysticism. In the end, when he is ready for it, he will recognize the worth of a fuller philosophy and let the Overself take over.
Philosophy is not for fools, not for those who prefer the appearance of things to their reality.
The interest in philosophy develops out of different motives. The need of finding inner peace is one man's motive; the wish to understand life is another's.
Religion (and to a lesser extent mysticism) is for troubled persons, deprived persons, helping them bear their destiny. Philosophy does the same but is primarily for truth-searchers, as is mysticism to a lesser extent.
They come to philosophy when they have exhausted other sources, paths, and directions, only when their search is prolonged enough and intelligent enough to show, with time, that the truth is not findable elsewhere.
Philosophy is not for kindergarten minds: therefore it cannot offer the spurious solace of mere phrases nor substitute the imaginary for the real.
This teaching will only be of interest to those who have long felt an aspiration towards higher-than-ordinary experience.
Philosophy will have little interest for those who are eager only for animal satisfactions and human selfishnesses. It is for more evolved types, who understand that a higher life is possible and worth working for.
Those who are looking for emotional or occult thrills may find the philosophic way too dull or too barren, perhaps even too demanding. But what they are seeking is not the same as the living presence of the Spirit.
There is no room on the philosophic path for self-deceptions, no space in the philosophic mind for illusions. Those who want them--and they are many--soon turn away from the sharp disciplines which are so destructive of these enemies of truth.
The sanity and balance, the inspiration and practicality of philosophy commend it to those select individuals who are seeking a mode of thought and a way of life suited to a century which is both the heir of such a long stretch of human striving and the parent of a new cycle of human history.
Some esotericism is still unavoidable
It is a gross error to believe that this knowledge is reserved by the Higher Power for an elect few. It is reserved by people themselves by their own lack of interest in the subject, lack of willingness to submit to the necessary self-discipline, or inability to meet the qualifications for the work and study involved.
The mystic would gladly give all that he has gained to all whom he meets, gladly share his revelations and his ecstasies with all beings; but he soon finds that the minds and hearts and wills of others are totally unprepared to receive what he would like to give, and so he soon retreats after painful experiences. In short, he does not have to form or join any esoteric cult. Esotericism is imposed upon him by the facts of human nature.
If it be true that the hour is ripe to unveil the tenets of philosophic mysticism to many people, it is also true that this unveiling must be cautiously, discriminatingly, and guardedly done.
The teaching was mantled in secrecy not as an anti-democratic device to preserve it for the exclusive benefit of the ruling classes--although that is how it worked out in practice--but as a necessity forced upon its custodians by a realization of the limitations on the mind of the multitude.
A teaching so rarefied that it can engage the interest of only one person in several thousands, and a practice so rigorous that it makes the extinction of egoism an indispensable condition of attaining truth--these two factors alone without the others, like ever present persecution by official established orthodoxy, would explain why the teachers shrouded themselves in secrecy.
If formerly the hidden teaching was kept strictly secret, there were excellent reasons for this prohibition. But today these reasons have lost a part of their validity. Therefore a part of the ban has been broken and some of it revealed, but not the most important part. This latter remains as before, to be communicated only orally and only privately to the tested few.
The reader will naturally ask why, if the higher wisdom is of such importance to mankind, it has not been made generally available for the benefit of mankind. I can reply only that this knowledge has been rarely attained and even then more frequently in remote lands than in Europe or America and more frequently in antiquity than during modern times. Whenever it has been alluded to and wherever it has been written about, it has been generally expressed in language which was either cryptic or obscure, or in terminology which was either symbolic or technical. Consequently even those statements of it which have appeared in book, Bible, or palm-leaf text have been largely misunderstood where they were not completely ignored. Moreover, there was always the overt or open antagonism of religious heads who feared for their own influence or power. However, the rapid advances made by science mysticism and philosophy in our own generation betoken possibilities of a brighter welcome for the advent of truth. These advances encourage hope for a wider friendlier reception.
Few have fully grasped the nature of these ideas and fewer still have thought out their full implications.
If people are so determined to become the victims of their own egos that no words, no sage counsel, can stop them, there is no other course left except to leave them to suffer the consequences of their actions and thus learn the hard way.
Philosophy is an exclusive cult not by its own choice, but by the compulsion of circumstances.
It is only a few who can comprehend the far-reaching significance of this teaching. They alone will remain utterly loyal to it.
The need for secrecy must be treated with respect. It does not mean that the truth is to be suppressed for all time or for all men. It means that one must not speak of it to men whose mentality cannot receive it or whose character cannot be touched by it. It means that one ought not to put forward ideas whose ultimate destiny will be the same as their immediate one--to be resisted or rejected.
However useful religion is for the masses, it does not speak very clearly to the few who want the Truth and nothing but the Truth. From the small number of seekers interested in these teachings it is obvious that more than three-quarters of the people are not ready for philosophy.
We have also to remember that every light throws a shadow, that the light of truth is opposed by the adverse element in Nature, that it finds its first barricade against the enemy in the curtain of complete secrecy with which it must be kept shrouded. The hostile forces of ignorance jealousy hatred and malice have to be fought by such secrecy. The task before the sages of keeping truth alive is too important and the opposition to it too strong to permit us to expose it unnecessarily to the danger of failure through the defection of traitors, the indiscretions of fools, and the babbling of gossips.
All seekers inevitably gravitate to the kind of teaching that suits their grade; the better the stuff they are made of, the better the quality of teaching they are likely to accept. Thus their different spiritual requirements are provided for, and thus we find in existence a medley of cults and a variety of sects. Nine-carat truth may hope to achieve some popularity, but twenty-four carat may not. Consequently philosophy does not lend itself to propaganda and can have no large-scale appeal. Its expectation of finding students will necessarily be qualified by its realization of limited appeal. It is too tough for the multitude, too subtle for the prosaic, too remote for those preoccupied wholly with personal cares and fears. It must perforce remain to a considerable extent an esoteric doctrine to be communicated only to those who have first made themselves fit to receive it by maturing their intelligence and disciplining their character. Hence it is not enough to be a seeker. That by itself does not entitle anyone to initiation into the highest truth. He must also be fit to receive it. Such a select few will be completely outnumbered by the gross multitude. We must thrust wishful thinking aside and resignedly accept this bare fact.
Frank Lloyd Wright, the distinguished architect, says that when a true master in the arts appears, he is at first suspected, then he is denied and ridiculed. "Genius is a sin again the mob," Wright adds. How often is this tragic situation true in public activities of spiritual pioneers.
The willingness to communicate spiritual knowledge is conditioned by how much or how little desire there is for it, by the presence or absence of the passive receptivity of it, and by the degree of development in the receiving person.
The real bar to access to this knowledge is put up by people themselves, by their lack of intelligence or intuition, or by their unmovable attachment to selfishness or sensuality. The actuality of reincarnation makes nonsense of the assertion that all persons ought to be given truth, all the truth; for it shows that not all are fit or prepared to receive the entire truth.
The custodians of esoteric truth do not pursue a spendthrift policy. They do not give it away indiscriminately. They are not satisfied with its value being recognized by few people outside themselves. But there is nothing much they can do about it. The upward development of mankind can no more be forced than can the upward growth of an oak tree.
It was written in the opening pages of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga that the higher truth would be proclaimed in our era more publicly than in the past. This was misread to mean that every esoteric piece of knowledge would be proclaimed. This is not what was meant. The whole truth cannot be given to the whole of mankind. This is because of possible breakdowns in religious relations or misunderstandings in moral connections. But much larger portions can now safely be revealed, or traditional teaching translated, with only the most necessary restraints.
Although more men are ready to receive it than ever before, philosophy's time has not yet come. There is still only a tiny minority which can recognize its truth, appreciate its worth, and practise its ethic.
The truth should be told to all mankind, but we know well enough that all mankind will not care to listen. Idealism must be balanced by realistic sense.
It must be said that in these days and under the modern sky, the medieval obsession with secrecy no longer applies, except as regards certain knowledge which could be misused by those who lack scruples.
The higher truths are not necessarily too hard to explain to most people; however, most people are either unfit for them or uninterested in them. Why wonder if some enlightened man withheld part of what he knew at a certain level or time?
It would be a lunatic's dream to look forward to a widespread favourable result of our humble effort at making these teachings more readily available than in the past. We shall respect our responsibilities and opportunities in this matter and not betray them. But at the same time we shall insist on seeing things as they are and shall recognize that only a select few are already attuned to receive such ideas. The others will have to be taught, slow step by slow step, by life and time.
Few are willing to look at the face of truth; illusion is more attractive. Most see only what they want to see; thus their minds remain shut and undisturbed.
Philosophy by its very nature can only appeal to the adult intelligences among us. And, unfortunately, the possession of an adult body does not give a man the possession of an adult intelligence.
It will not appeal to the cynical and supercilious intelligentsia asking for harsh realities nor to the pious and sentimental religionists asking only for soothing syrup.
The labouring classes have seldom been allowed, owing to the conditions under which they have laboured and lived, to gain the emotional detachment, the physical leisure, and the intellectual reflectiveness which philosophy requires.
If these truths prove arrestive to some minds, even dazzling in their effect, they stir no interest at all in other minds, for there are varying degrees of inner ripeness.
If it is too far above people's heads, or too idealistic in its demands, it may not be suitable for general publication. To present truth to those not yet ready for it is largely to waste it.
Its truth sears the ego like a red-hot iron. Hence philosophy repels men.
It is too subtle for popular appeal, too selfless for popular emotion, too honest for popular thought.
A strong minority is bitterly opposed to this teaching, the great majority of people are both ignorant of and indifferent towards it, while only a few eagerly adopt it.
A few men, gifted with deep insight, have attained this knowledge and guard it closely. They fear more harm than good would be done by revealing it to the unready and unprepared masses. So they cautiously keep this property a secret. Only the candidate who proves his character and fitness by long probation is taught.
It is not to be expected that the hidden teaching, which has been the accepted thought of the world's master minds, can quickly become the accepted thought of inferior minds.
It is a firm conviction with the adepts that it is better to have two or three in a community who are earnestly and indefatigably striving to conquer their lower selves and unite with their higher selves than to have two or three thousand public followers who are largely nominal only. They are interested in, and appreciative of, quality rather than quantity. Nor do they consider it sensible to propagate their wisdom among men whose minds are too undeveloped, whose intuition is too uncultivated, and whose hearts are too unprepared to receive it readily and sympathetically.
Those who come out publicly to help mankind free itself from false ideas sustained by selfish vested interest, or who give out teachings which dissipate the ignorance sustained by powerful forces that are insensitive to the Spirit's voice, may earn the gratitude of some people but may have a penalty inflicted on them by these others.
To explain philosophy and advocate its doctrines to those who are unready for and unsympathetic toward it is to commit a kind of desecration.
It is useless to talk of these higher matters to those who are not even wishful to reform their character and reorient their tendencies. The result would not only be either incomprehension or miscomprehension, but also antagonism.
The ethical qualifications needed for this study are lofty; the intellectual attainments required for it are high. These and these only constitute the reasons why it has been in a closed circle, because few have been those fit enough or who cared enough for it.
It is unwise for the adepts and unhelpful to the masses to place advanced truths in the latter's unprepared hands when they have not mastered the elementary ones.
So many seekers are looking for occult "experiences," so few are looking for the understanding of truth, that philosophy could not, on this ground alone, become popular.
Philosophy is for the few. This is and must be so for several reasons. Its way of disciplined living is hard, its rejection of false emotional solaces is unpopular, its search for factual reality rather than personal fancy is bothersome.
The belief that if people can be taught truth they will respond to it spontaneously collides with the facts.
To believe that truth should be confined to a few is a belief that may easily be misunderstood and therefore unjustly criticized.
The mastery of any subject moves through a series of steps and the higher the step the fewer the number of those capable of understanding it.
He would be a foolish man indeed who let the unready take the time he could put into more fruitful service.
The philosopher hopes to educate the mind and train the temperament only of his disciples, for with them he needs the minimum of energy and effort. If he were to set out to educate and train the masses, both he and they would be dead before much could be done.
It is as hard to get a brutal, materialistic egotist to understand and accept philosophy as it is to get an uneducated, illiterate, and semi-savage Amazon forest-native to understand and accept the quantum theory.
Great truths and small minds go ill together.
The loftier standards of the philosopher--which apply as much to his eating as to his thinking--are enough to keep most people out of philosophy.
Is the world ripe for such a single all-enclosing system? We must ruefully answer that it is not although it ought to be.
Philosophy finds its opposition from the bigoted sectarian on the one hand, and the sense-bound materialist on the other.
Most men are more body than mind, a few more mind than body. Philosophy cannot, by its very nature, appeal to those in the first group and can only appeal to a limited number in the second one.
When we remember that a magnet repels as well as attracts, we may see how, and understand why, if philosophy draws to itself those mentally intuitively and morally equipped to accept it, it also leaves uninterested those not so equipped.
Philosophy does not look for any other results upon the contemporary world from its teaching than are to be expected from the inherent nature of the men in that world. It measures those expectations by cool, intelligent observation, not by wishful enthusiastic emotion.
Because we are a minority does not mean that we are to be a discouraged minority. We understand the very good reasons why this must be so, and why it has always been so. We have set our standards and we must serenely accept the consequences.
When a man finds out the truth about philosophy, he cannot help becoming its friend; if he is strong enough, he cannot help becoming its follower. But since the facts which lead to recognition of its truth must be personally experienced, and this is not easily come by, few are its friends, fewer still its followers.
While he is driven by sensual instincts, unpractised and unwilling to control them, the disciplines of philosophy would alone drive him away. Add the deep level on which its studies are conducted, and his complete indifference to such teachings is explained.
Small sectarian minds are not confined to religion: they appear in mystical circles too. But in the large free air of philosophy, they feel uneasy, uncomfortable, and soon retreat.
If there is any concealment in his attitude, then it is called for both by the needs of his personal situation in a non-comprehending community and by the sacredness in which he holds philosophy.
A certain statement by Lao Tzu might have the salutary effect of a cold bath, metaphorically, on certain naïve people who do not know the difference between religio-mysticism and philosophical mysticism. He said, "If the Tao could be offered to men, there is no one who would not willingly offer it; if it could be handed down to men, who would not wish to transmit it to his children?"
If much has been given out, much has also been kept back.
Those sunk in paralysing vices or stupefied by the glare of modern commercialism will regard it as something to scoff at, if not to scorn.
The program for spiritualizing life which it offers could be carried out only by a small number of people who are endowed by nature with the right temperament and by fortune with the right circumstances for it.
It would doubtless be pleasant to congratulate ourselves that men and women are to be found today attracted to reading these books, ready to attend these lectures, and willing to practise these exercises. But the same situation existed in the closing years of Rome. It is necessary to contrast the number of those who feel these impulses with the number of those who do not. It will be found that the difference is too wide to allow any complacency. It is also necessary to examine and measure the depth of this interest. Here too we shall find that much of it is too shallow to allow any illusions, an intellectual playing with what ought to be seriously held things.
There is this about philosophy which could be frightening to those unready for it--which means most persons. It is the complete impersonality which it commends in its practice and demands in its learning.
They think there is something inhuman in being impersonal.
Even many of those who have had the good fortune to come into contact with philosophy have either misunderstood it and so missed their opportunity, or neglected it because its disciplines seemed too troublesome.
There is no need to lament the fact that so few persons agree with our beliefs. So long as human beings continue to be born different from each other, so long must we expect them to hold different opinions. And when some of them have climbed into the rarefied atmosphere which philosophy breathes, their opinions will not only be different but also rare.
It is not a question of selfishly withholding truth, or of sentimentally sharing it, but of acting with wisdom.
Dangers to be recognized
The danger of misunderstanding this subtle teaching is not only the likelihood of going wrong metaphysically and psychologically, but also of going wrong morally.
Let us admit at once that in the hands of the unprepared and undisciplined and uninformed, the doctrine of "God in me" may prove dangerous to its follower. The danger is not in the doctrine itself, for it is a perfectly true one, but in him, in his conceit and lust. These may cause him to misapply the doctrine to suit the desires of his ego or the passions of his body. They may give him false licence under the pretext that he is expressing unbridled the authentic freedom of Spirit when, in fact, he is expressing the freedom of an animal. Thus truth can be misapplied distorted or caricatured by its supposed friends.
Unless a man has the requisite mental ability and moral inclination to benefit by philosophical study, it is useless to offer it to him. The masters therefore seek to restrict their personal tuition to those who are fit to embark on a course of philosophy. The mentally immature, the experientially ill-equipped, and the emotionally unfit people will only be bewildered by or rendered antagonistic by such an offering. The standards must be maintained and enforced if philosophy is not to degenerate, as it has so often done in the past, into scholasticism or mysticism.
Although systematic concealment of its doctrines has been abandoned, some items of practical knowledge are still withheld because of the danger of their misuse for evil ends.
The danger is of a fall into psychism, mediumship, sorcery, and black magic--above all the danger of stimulating the personal ego--which accompanies the abuse and misuse of mystical knowledge by those unready or unworthy of it. It was awareness of these dangers both by the official heads of certain religions and by its solitary adepts which kept mysticism a secret hidden and guarded from the public for centuries and left them with the relatively harmless dogmas and theatrical parades of public religion. But continued silence would have been even worse than these evils while the waves of materialistic belief washed over humanity. Because humanity has been losing its religious faith and growing worse in its moral character, even though it has been gaining in technical skill and scientific knowledge, much knowledge has been given out that was formerly kept esoteric. The practical teachings about meditation especially have been given out for the benefit of those intuitive enough to heed them.
Why do not those who know the higher mystical truths give more generously from their store of knowledge? They do not withhold it from anyone who is ripe to receive it. The others who are still unripe could not benefit by it because they would not understand it or, understanding, would be shocked and frightened by its terrifying impersonality. Nor is this all. The old saying, "Knowledge is power," applies here also. Knowledge of the dynamic forces and subconscious operations of the human mind can easily be abused by ignorant persons or misused by selfish ones. Because, through the soul, we are linked with God, something of the creative magic of the divine comes into possession of a man with the knowledge of certain truths concerning the soul. It would be as dangerous to give this knowledge to unprepared and unpurified masses as it would be to give a box of dynamite to a child as a plaything. The history of the destruction of Atlantis, and of another continent which preceded it, is in part the history of the premature use by humanity of forces which it is not morally entitled to use. Our own civilization today is faced by a related danger unless humanity stops looking for guidance and salvation in the wrong direction; unless the blind following of blind leaders comes to an end, the major portion of civilization will come to an end and this planet will be largely depopulated. Those who seek protection from God against this menace of the future will find it only as they come into harmony with God or insofar as they entrust themselves to the guidance of leaders who have come into that harmony. Those who protest against these impending terrors, or pray to be saved from them, are alike walking in ignorance. Nature, which is God Active, governs man by her own laws, which bring him the results of his own doing.
Ordinarily it has been assumed that if philosophy in its fullness is taught too soon, the results will be as bad as if the teaching were delayed too long. It has long been the custom to wait until a person is ready for it, otherwise he will receive it incorrectly, misuse its practices, and drop his moral values.
The moral dangers resulting from a promiscuous dissemination of philosophy, the confusion of public ethics arising from its indiscriminate advocacy, were other reasons which kept its custodians from revealing it to the masses, from all whose minds were still immature and whose characters were not sufficiently formed. For such people tend to make it a support for their own weaknesses and a pretense for their own sins. Its idea of the relativity of morality would be taken advantage of for immoral ends. Since philosophy advocates a far higher ethic than is commonly followed, how great would be the horror of its custodians at such a lamentable result? Since it advocates the highest kind of personal responsibility for one's actions, how great would be their consternation at the personal irresponsibility which might be shown by those who could only pick up one or two of its truths at best, and that without rightly understanding them? The extreme effect of the highest revelations upon the lowest mind was seen in cases like that secret fraternity of the "Assassins" whom the Crusaders discovered in the Near East, a fraternity of insane and criminal mystics whose motto was "Nothing is true: everything is permitted."
No philosopher will go out of his way to deprive others of a faith which is important to their life or destroy their trust in the teaching of a religion which gives them moral support. To do so would be to harm them, and weaken their higher purposes: it would lead directly to cynicism or materialism or even despair.
The deeper truths of philosophy are idol-smashing, and that reason, among others, has rendered it advisable to keep them hidden away like the most precious gems. To the undeveloped, unprepared mind they are at least disturbing, at most, alarming.
The bare naked truth--whether it be that of man's essential loneliness or of matter's essential emptiness--would, if suddenly and bluntly revealed, only frighten those who are unready for it.
There is danger for the unprepared in philosophy. Being out of their depth intellectually, emotionally, and morally might upset their faith and create uncertainties, doubts, uneasiness. They might then withdraw altogether. They might then flee for refuge back to the simpler creed, or accept conversion to another kind of exoteric religion, or become total sceptics.
It would be of little use to take such a teaching as mentalism to the masses, for it would make them feel out of their depth intellectually.
For to teach the masses that the world of their experiences is only an idea, is to tell them something which may be easily misconstrued. It may then become a means of destroying their entire mental stability and of plunging their entire practical life into chaos.
These doctrines that the world is only an idea and that the personality is only a wave are likely to terrify the populace.
It is not only the needs of public religion and private safety which have compelled this secrecy about philosophy, not only its intellectual hardness and mystical subtlety. There have also been the dangers involved in its meditational exercises. These bring eventually the powers of a concentrated mind and of a concentrated dynamism to bear upon life. If selfishness or ambition, passion or desire, greed or appetite be strong and ungratified, then it is likely that these powers will be made to serve ignoble ends or, worse, to injure others in the process.
How many were those who, being unable to rise to the level from which Jesus spoke, were unable to understand him? He, a mystic, so far removed from interest in this world, was charged with political crime!
No hierophant will divulge his secret knowledge of the way to, or the working of, these powers to those who are likely to abuse them through weakness or wickedness.
Undeveloped minds, unintuitive hearts, or unevolved characters are not ready for truth. They can receive it only at the cost of reducing its largeness and sullying its purity.
So widespread is the intellectualization of the present generation that any mystical or religious teaching which presented falsehoods in smooth plausible logical and literate language could more easily find acceptance than one which presented truths in simple statements.
It is understandable why the medieval Talmudic scholars of southern France and their outstanding leaders prohibited anyone under the age of thirty from reading philosophy and metaphysics: they perceived the dangers to the young unfortified minds of falling into heresy or, worse, into atheism. As for the actual practice of mystical exercises, other European rabbis limited it to those who were over forty because of the mental perils, particularly madness, involved in it. The Godhead, "The Most Hidden of the Hidden" in the Hebrew phrase, is utterly beyond human reach.
Why was it believed so necessary in former times to keep so secret the true nature of the Godhead? Why did Hindu religious laws threaten the Brahmin priests with death if they revealed it, or punish the darker-skinned lower castes with burning oil poured into their ears for listening to any reading aloud of the holy books holding this and other revelations? Why were the Hebrews warned never to utter the real Name of God? Because the common mind would soon confound the philosophic conception of the Deity with the atheistic one, would destroy religion and substitute a soulless materialism for it. This fear, misapplied by selfish vested interests, led authority to poison Socrates, crucify Jesus, decapitate al-Hallaj, murder Hypatia, and put Molinos to rot and die in a prison dungeon. If caution counselled the survivors to refrain from telling the whole truth, there was sufficient justification. But times are now different. There is a ferment of questioning, discussion, experimentation, rebellion, seeking, writing, reading, and publishing in the religious world, weaker in some places, stronger in others.
The advocacy of truth in a truthless world is fraught with considerable danger. It must be done cautiously, discreetly, quietly, unobtrusively, and it must be limited only to those who are ready for it. Not only must it not be discussed with the unready--a futile self-deceptive procedure at best and a trouble-causing one too often--but they must definitely be avoided. Otherwise their hostility will sooner or later be aroused.
How philosophy presents itself
But when we say that philosophy must today make itself available to the public we do not mean obtrude itself upon the public. It is too conscious of the inequalities of character, intelligence, aspiration, and intuition to delude itself into the belief that it could ever become popular or attractive to the multitude.
The popularization of an esoteric doctrine has its dangers, as recent history has testified. But the maintenance of ignorance also has its dangers, which the same history corroborates. Is there a dilemma here? For clearly it is a disservice to throw immature mentalities into bewilderment by teaching what is beyond their grasp. But it is also a failure in service to keep quite silent. So the middle way must be taken: to tell neither everything nor nothing.
The wise man will not take other men as being better than they really are or more intelligent than their powers of understanding permit them to be. He will, on the contrary, take a scientific rather than a sentimental view, see clearly what precise possibilities they possess for immediate improvement of character and what ideas they can immediately grasp.
The incapacity of some persons to receive the teaching is illusory. The fault lies really in the inefficiency of those who present it--in their failure to make it clear enough, vivid enough, logical enough, to render it intelligible. And if it be true that there are those who come to the teaching with duller natural faculties than others, then they ought not be denied its benefits, as the Brahmins with their secrecy denied the lower castes in India, but given more help than the others and taught more skilfully.
Much depends on the way these teachings are presented. If the author understands them well enough and clearly enough, and if he has the gift of transmitting his understanding just as much, the reader will gain the benefit of this straight thinking. The mysteries involved in teachings will begin to vanish.
The great defect in the ancient Indian and medieval European writers on mysticism is that they failed to put their thoughts into the logical form of a scientific demonstration. They did not reason the matter out as the modern mind does, but began by taking a scriptural text and ended by writing a verse-by-verse commentary on that. And as scriptures themselves usually began and ended with a dogma, the modern reader does not know whether he is being led to truth or to its opposite. Philosophy fails if it fails to produce in us the powerful conviction that we are moving from fact to fact along a path of rigorous reasoned truth.
The multitude of seekers after happiness, which means in the end seekers after their own sacred source, live on widely different levels of understanding and exhibit very diverse kinds of character. Why then should the whole of truth be presented all at once at a single time straightway to all of them, the young and the mature alike? No, it must be revealed gradually and slowly or, if abruptly, by stages.
The teaching will always be adapted to the intellectual and moral capacities of its hearers. Hence the teachers will speak differently to different men or groups of men. Only at the highest level of in-take will there be absolute identity and purity of teaching.
The modern philosopher gives out his knowledge with a wide generosity, which contrasts markedly with the niggardly secrecy of certain "occult" teachers.
The principles of chemistry have no individual's name attached to them. We accept them not because so-and-so discovered them, but because they can be tested and proven by anyone anywhere. So it is with principles and teachings. Because they are really factual, no names or personalities should be put forward as the guarantee of their correctness. They must be presented impersonally. This is a teaching which can and will be expanded; which is open to change, correction, and improvement--like every science. It asks us to look at the facts of life and see how they support it. The teachings are to be presented impersonally. They should be examined as actual facts found in Nature. The emphasis will be on these facts, and the personality of the teacher pushed into the background.
The truth must appeal as such to a man by the light of his everyday experience, and by a competent knower and expert communicator it can be explained in the same light. But whether the man's receptivity and understanding can stretch the whole way that truth extends is another matter.
Discretion tells only what it is necessary to tell, for it knows that more will obstruct or bewilder and not help. And it tells even that only when the proper time has come.
Such knowledge is the property of a few. It is their responsibility to keep the torch of philosophy alight.
The philosophic attitude does not hoard truth like a miser in complete secrecy, yet it does not proclaim it openly like a town crier. It gladly feeds those who are hungry for it, but no others.
Fired by this noble ideal and seeking its realization though he is, nevertheless he will not waste his energies in trying to convey to the undeveloped mind more than it can take in. This is not spiritual obscurantism.
We can best form public opinion by first forming private conviction.
Such was the primitive intellectual condition of the masses in former times that spiritual truth was best conveyed and easiest understood through parables, myths, allegories, and personifications. In our own day, improvement of the intellectual condition permits of straightforward statement and scientific precision in conveying the same truth. Thus the appeal to imagination is displaced by the appeal to reason.
To have used such obscurities as a mask in the days when plain writing would have endangered the writer's life is defensible; to use them today, when free thought and free speech are common democratic privileges, is not.
There is excellent reason why the communication of such teachings should be made with good taste, with artistic form, and with some refinement.
If the philosophical few realize that their doctrines have little appeal to the masses, they need not feel disturbed. They must acquire something of the patience which Nature herself possesses. Truth must be their hope and its ultimate power must be their reliance.
Philosophy can afford, as nothing else can, to await the ages for the vindication of its truth.
To tell everything and imply nothing is as undesirable as to tell nothing and imply everything. This is the general rule concerning the disclosure of such knowledge. But at times there will be special cases where it should not be applied, where either full disclosure or full reticence is necessary.
It is our duty to spread this teaching but not our duty to spread it among those who cannot profit by it.
Whoever takes it upon himself to preach and promulgate a system of thought needs to remember that those who need Truth most like it least.
Because the philosopher has freed himself from the intense attachment to personality which is so common, he feels no desire to impose his beliefs, ways, views, or practices on other people. And this remains just as true in political matters as in religious ones.
Philosophy is faced with the problem of educating each individual seeker who aspires to understand it. There is no such thing as mass education in philosophy.(P)
Such a teaching cannot indulge in propagandist methods or militant sectarianism. It must live quietly and offer itself only to those who are intellectually prepared and emotionally willing to receive it.(P)
If philosophical mysticism must inevitably remain denied to most by reason of innate incapacity to believe or practise it, philosophical concepts may yet be rendered most accessible by presenting them in the plainest of popular language.
It is perfectly possible for every person to rise into the high planes of spiritual realization, but it is probable only for one in ten thousand. That one is born gifted, selfless, determined, or fated. But what of the other 9,999? Religion must help them, since they are unable to help themselves. If we preach the gospel of philosophy, it is for the sake of that one, not for the multitude who we know will not heed it, since they lack the inborn power to obey it; and likewise for the sake of finding out that one in ten thousand we reckon it is worth the trouble of preaching.
The advanced mystic has little value for the masses, who can neither understand his attainment nor profit by his example. He may be willing to give them his grace but how can they receive it? Sensitivity of mind and conscious search for the Divine must exist as prerequisite conditions before this can happen. If he is to teach at all, he must teach ripe individuals. He must leave all others to the tuition of institutional religion. Nor can he wisely engage himself in forming groups and organizing societies. These at best are for the half-ripe. The best work of a mystical leader calls for personal attention and individual guidance.
It is the worship of outer formal success and ignorance of the inner spiritual reality in religion which has led so often to the triumph of error and defeat of truth, to officialdom, organization, and worldliness. It is the same worship which, in a different sphere, is applied in history to the same unworthy objects with the same deceptive results. The belief that the nations like the religions go from bad to good to better is as falsely but frequently taught as is the belief that power and progress travel together. The same suffocation which overcame the original purity of Christianity overcame many of the finer elements who were crushed by the power of arms, cunning, or treachery. It is this worship of material splendour and military force--so far distant from true heroism--which has made the Roman Empire a subject for so much praise in so many books. Yet the ruthless brutality and vast bloodshed which accompanied both the growth and maintenance of that empire receive little denunciation. Writers and readers are impressed by the splendid buildings and straight roads but know little or nothing about the destroyed spiritual culture of the conquered "barbarians." The official history of religions is as much a mixture of the false with the true as the official history of nations. Those who are capable of independent thought, and who are willing to make the required research among the mutilated records salvaged from deliberate destruction, may hope to find out some part of what really happened and what was originally and really taught by the prophets. All others will have to be satisfied--and generally are--with substitutions, frauds, and perversions among which a remnant of the pure truth shines out the more brilliantly by contrast with its setting. For it was impossible to exclude all the truth from the teaching and the records, nor--let it be said in justice to the official teachers and historians--was it desired to do so.
He who is fully aware of this state of affairs, because he has explored the neglected by-currents of religious history and discovered things which can bring no reward of position, promotion, honour, or money, who has also devoted his time and life to learning the secret of time and understanding the meaning of life--such a lone individual will not be so imprudent as to oppose his forces against this universal current of admiration for what is spurious but successful, false but powerful, dishonest but accepted. If he does not seek martyrdom, he will prefer to remain withdrawn, obscure, retired, and dispense his knowledge or grace to the few who really seek Truth. As for the others, the multitude, who must attend throughout the day to their physical wants and have neither the leisure nor facilities nor inclination to probe such matters--what are they to do? Knowing no better, what else can they do than accept the lies along with the truths, the impostures along with the authenticities, the whole dubious mixture of good and bad. Until quite recently this lone individual could not help them even if he wished, for the attempt would at once call down official persecution and extinction. All that he could do was what in fact he did do, pass the truth to a closed circle and thence let it be transmitted in the same secret way to other closed circles through the centuries.
If today so much has been publicly released as to constitute a veritable revelation, we must thank these pioneers and initiates who both in Europe and in the Near-East and India kept the teachings intact during earlier times. And although nothing can still equal the personal initiation by a master in effectiveness, nevertheless the wider intellectual initiation of our times is itself an immense advance on the secrecy formerly imposed by harsh necessity and makes most of the teaching available to the multitude.
Such an exalted teaching is never to be forced on others; they must first feel the desire for truth, and that strongly enough to begin to seek for it. Each man therefore obtains the truths to which he is entitled. It is all a matter of ripeness.
Plotinus warned his disciples against trying to argue doctrines or discuss tenets or explain philosophy to "those people with whom we can make no way," as he called them. The books containing his own teaching were not circulated publicly but secretly, and only he who was deemed fit to study them could lay hands on a copy.
Philosophy can only silently spread its internal influence rather than noisily build up any external institution. It can only lead the way to a new consciousness rather than into an old organization.
Because it respects the fact that evolutionary fitness brings to all persons what is truly their own, philosophy never seeks to make proselytes. Only when they are ready to be led to its own higher position does it bring its truth to them. And even then such truth will be dropped quietly like a seed into their minds, to grow by its own mysterious power and in its own hidden way.
For philosophy to attempt propaganda on its own behalf among the millions of people unready to receive it would be to enter into competition with religions which seek power, wealth, prestige, and followings. In the end philosophy would have to measure its success by these things, instead of by its capacity to lead a man into thinking and living in the truth. Further, the temptation to make itself more acceptable and more popular would finally bring about the undesirable result of enfeebling, diluting, or even falsifying the truth.
It prefers to let, not the pressure of propaganda, but the experience of life and the conclusions of reason, the guidance of intuition and the endorsement of sages persuade men to accept these doctrines.
The occultist's attempts to introduce mystification are completely remote from the philosopher's caution in phrasing his teaching to fit the receptivity of his hearers.
Its reticence grows not from an aristocratic pride but from a sensitive humility. Philosophy does not go out of its way to seek recruits.
The teaching does not have to go forth to meet people. They will find their own way to meet it as they develop through science, religion, art, and life.
Philosophy can have no missionary arrogance since, unlike religion, it does not seek to displace one set of beliefs by another. Nor can it have any propagandist aggressiveness, since it tolerantly holds that all men find the degree of truth for which they are ready, and that a higher degree would be useless because beyond their capacity to absorb.
It has been a traditional view of philosophy that people should be left undisturbed in their faith, even though it is recognized by superior minds as faulty or erroneous. Only when their own minds become troubled about it should its defectiveness be admitted and a truer faith be placed before them.
He may say nothing to disturb those who desire to rest in the preliminary stage of spiritual understanding, which is the religious stage. It is better to leave them to the tutoring of life, to the processes of evolution.
No one favours philosophy in official circles; no one spreads it. Slowly, gently it must spread itself. As men become better, more intuitive and more intelligent, they respond to its fine doctrines and precepts. To let them know that it exists is all one can do. After that they will come to it, if they wish.
They are afraid of popularizing the teaching because this leads, first, to diluting it and, finally, to falsifying it. They are correct. But this is not enough reason for clothing it in such obscurity and expressing it in so much verbosity that the ideas become even more difficult to grasp than need be.
A truth which lies buried in myth or enshrined in allegory is not a truth fully and clearly understood. To make it so, and to present it in a connected reasonable statement, is the special task of our own century.
Because they sought to help the multitude for whom they came, rather than the elite, sages used the popular language to deliver their teachings. Hence Buddha spoke in Prakrit rather than in Sanskrit, Jesus in Aramaic rather than Hebrew.
By the single fact of its refusal to proselytize, philosophy is taken out of the ranks of conventional teaching; but by its daring thought it is taken out even more. And it is distinguished even more by the calm tolerance of its attitude towards other teachings, by the measured fairness with which it appraises them, and by its refusal to degenerate into personal offensiveness or bitter animosity. It knows quite well that truth cannot be elucidated in an atmosphere of angry feelings and personal polemics.
He would be untrue to philosophy if he were to seek a single proselyte. Nevertheless, when through his work anybody does accept this teaching he rejoices with and for him. But this jubilation is mostly on the other's account. The gain is the proselyte's, not the philosopher's.
The philosophic movement must spread itself by teaching, not by propaganda.
There is no room in philosophy for the exhibitionism which tries to attract attention to itself.
Useless would it be to thrust these truths on unprepared people and to get them to take up a way of spiritual growth unsuited to their taste and temperament. Persuasion should arise of its own accord through inner attraction.
Without relaxing the scholarly requirements of accurate presentation, it is still possible to put before laymen in more familiar forms and terms this higher truth to some extent, leaving the fuller presentation for better prepared students.
That a long and persistent course of intellectual striving is the coin to be tendered for the full understanding of its metaphysical side is undeniable. That this--not less than the unorthodox character of its conceptions, with their likelihood of giving a shock to the mind--has tended to make the whole system esoteric is also undeniable. But that the few leading ideas could be presented in a greatly simplified manner, and so made easier for popular taste, is not less undeniable. If most people show indifference towards this teaching, that is not altogether their fault.
Philosophy has no wish to argue these points with sceptics, no urge to triumph in the debate over opponents.
Philosophy does not seek a popular following. It does not even set out to win friends and influence people.
It is not necessary to decorate this doctrine with the red embroideries of prejudice-pandering in order to induce men to accept it. The propositions it contains establish themselves within intuitional minds by the inherent force of their truth.
In the end the truth is its own best propaganda and does its own proselytizing.
Philosophy would not be itself if it sought to stage theoretical debates: those who find it satisfying grow or come into it of themselves. But it does seek to show that materialism serves its adherents less while mentalism enlightens them more, that narrow sectarian versions of religion catch less of the divine atmosphere than mentalism does.
These over-optimistic enthusiasts show an imperfect acquaintance with human nature when they imagine revivals and proselytizations can spread philosophic truth. What can be spread by such means is speculation, fancy, and opinion.
Adherence to philosophy is the most fundamental act of a man's life. He cannot be emotionally rushed into it, as he can into adherence to a religious cult. It is the result of growth.
The time has come to teach the masses principles which formerly they were taught in parables.
If we wish to serve the many with this truth-offering, then the terminology which bewilders and irritates them must be absent from our speaking and writing, whether it be the jargon of metaphysics, the exoticism of Sanskrit, or the abracadabra of occultism; let us say plainly what we mean.