“All of life, throughout all the world, is to be the dwelling-place of the King; by renouncing life thou shalt possess it, nor envy any man his wealth.
“Working here in the world, and accomplishing all works, a man should be willing to live a hundred ages; this shall be the law for thee also, and no other; nor does work smirch the soul.
“There are realms where no sunlight comes, in blind darkness enwrapped; to this darkness they go forth, whatsoever creatures thwart the Soul.
“The One unmoving is swifter than thought, nor did the powers reach it, for it outstripped them; standing, this outspeeds the others running; in it the Great Breath sets the waters.
“This moves, yet moves not; it is afar, yet near; it is in the heart of all that is, yet it is outside all things.
“He who comes to see all creatures in the Soul, and sees the Soul within all beings, no longer shrinks back from the Soul in fear.
“When all beings have become the Soul for the seer, then what delusion remains, or what sorrow, for him beholding the One Life?
“He encircled the shining life, the bodiless, woundless, frameless, the pure and faultless life. He, the Poet of the world, the wise Seer who holds all things, the Self-being; He ordained all things wisely throughout immortal ages.”—The Ritual of Initiation.
These are the opening verses of a hymn whose position among the Books of Wisdom is specially significant. It stands at the turning point of the path, closing the old, and ushering in the new. Its words might well stand engraved over the doorway leading from the lesser to the greater Mysteries, and in truth it forms part of the ritual of admission into them.
The difference between the lesser and the greater Mysteries is clearly marked everywhere throughout the books of Wisdom; and it is one which we can easily understand. More than that, on our understanding it, and making it effective in our own lives and wills, depends our power to take that last step over the threshold, which at this moment lies immediately before us, and the taking of which will give us entry into the house of life.
The lesser Mysteries are to instruct the mind and imagination, every power of the individual soul; to raise and illumine the heart and will, till the whole personal nature, the whole conscious habitual self is brought into harmony with the great brooding Life which overshadows it. when the lesser Mysteries are learned, a man can say: I am master of the teaching; I have learned all that there was for me to learn; I have purified my will from desire; all my life is lived in harmony with the better law; what then remains to be done?
There remains this,—and it is the most tremendous and vital truth in life: the time has come for the personal soul to give place altogether to the Soul; the time has come for the great invocation, the answer to which is Initiation; an entry into the hall of the immortals. The Oversoul is to descend and dwell within the body, in place of the personal soul; henceforth, the personal soul is no longer lord within the dwelling, but must speak the words, and do the works of another; and that other, the hidden divinity, who was before the beginning of the worlds.
This is the last struggle, the last offering laid on the altar; and it would be vain to think this battle can be won with less than the valor of the immortals. It is the deed of the will which demands the highest courage ever called for from the heart of man. For his heart must open to the infinite heart of being; his will submit to the immemorial will; his selfhood sink in the eternal Self; his very soul lose itself in the everlasting Soul. Thenceforth, he is no longer a man among men, but one of the immortals, strong with an infinite strength, gentle with boundless pity, glad with an undying Joy. The Soul works through him, that ancient poet of the world, who throughout ages has ordained all things well.
So clear is it that this last step is a sacrifice, a deed calling for divine courage and will, that, in the great drama of the Mysteries which has overshadowed the last two milleniums, it has for its symbol the Crucifixon. The soul at the august threshold is shrouded in the gloom of dark Gethsemane; the symbols of the offering are the crown of thorns, the scourge, the nails, the spear.
But for us, and for the age that is to come, that symbol is no longer valid; the great secret will come to us, not in weakness, but in power; not in fear but in valor; and we shall see, not death, but the rising from the dead. Yet the hour will come for us, which has come for all the immortal company of those who have gone before; and we shall be well advised to prepare for it in the silence and the darkness, in which great destiny decrees that our eyes shall be made ready for the dawn. We have reached the utmost limit of the path of mortal life; we stand before the door, wide open, though hidden from us in gloom. Henceforth, two ways alone are open to us: to go boldly forward, or ignominiously to retreat, and through vileness make the great betrayal. This is the choice we have brought upon ourselves, by advancing thus far, and now there is no possibility of withdrawing from the choice or further delaying the day of fate. Events will hurry forward to meet us; the stillness will suddenly become vocal with voices; the darkness that seemed to shut us in, will grow alive with human souls.
We must advance, or we must retreat. There is no halting any longer possible; and across that threshold no man has ever yet carried his own will, his own personal self, his separate and isolated being; that must be left at the hither side of the door; nothing can enter but that in us which is of the eternal Soul.
Here are some of the conditions which surround this last battle for immortality: there must be a certain weariness of life, and yet withal a firm and resolute will. The weariness of weakness is of no avail; the sad return from life that comes of failure will not profit here. It is rather a sense that this old game of human life, as we have played it, is played out; that we know the moves, have tested the value of the stakes; have been winners and losers so often that we find no pleasure in the one event, nor are greatly cast down by the other. This better world-weariness is rather a kind of perplexity in the face of life, a sense that we have done what we could, and been always foiled; that the real life has all along eluded our grasp; that while we played the rules, they were not the real rules, nor that the real game. We were fighting, not with swords, but with buttoned foils.
Therefore within our weariness there must be a vast reserve of will; a strength tainted by no unconquered flaw of lust or fear. We must have saved the best of ourselves, even without knowing it; we must have full reserves of valor, for great work lies before us. Perhaps we may gain some idea of this mood of perplexed weariness, by picturing ourselves as advancing on the path, among endless difficulties, through gathering gloom; and, instead of the hoped-for goal, finding ourselves confronted at last with a blind wall, no entry being visible, nor any further possibility of advance. As we turn our backs on it, full of doubts and misgiving, a door is suddenly opened behind us, and the light streams through to us from the immortal light.
We must be very well done with hopes or fears for our human life, before we can see the light that comes to us from that long hidden doorway. Then again a second quality is needed: we must be very ready to give up our own wills, our own conception, formed before, of what we expect from the remainder of our life, and our whole future. We might as well try to form a picture of the sunrise, from long study of a smoky lamp. We must have no reservations; we must make no bargains with the Soul, nor seek to impose our notions upon the Most High. It is everything or nothing, in this last throw of life; and we must not think too anxiously of insurance in case of failure. For that is to court failure, and to invoke, not the radiance, but the shadows of the night. The great Soul is to enter into us, to make his dwelling-place in our souls; and we must fain leave the rest to the Soul. And this assurance may once again he given, which has been given so many times before; that so far from really weakening our hold on human life, and leaving us at life’s mercy, the great change, when it passes over us, will fill us with strength, so that only after the lesson shall we realize how great, how boundless are our powers, even the powers that handle daily life. And further, no detriment can come to anyone through our sacrifice; rather, only after that sacrifice, shall we gain the power to help any human soul.
So we must give up our future; we must understand that we, the benevolent personal selves, who filled such generous spaces in our own horizons, have no longer any future at all; there will he no reward for us, no purpose, no goal, no hope or consolation; for we shall have lost ourselves, to find that better Life whose least act is a benediction. And among the misty visions that we shall give up, this also stands: the thought that, by any contriving, we are to save the world; to bring spiritual blessings to this and future ages. Only the immortals can do that, and we are not yet of the company of the immortals. When we have been admitted into that august company, we shall have time enough to consider what was the signal benefit we purposed to confer on our fellow men.
And last of all comes courage. Without that, we shall be nowhere on the great day. We must have the certain knowledge that there is divinity, that there are life-giving powers, that there is a sea of life; we must have firm faith in the Soul, otherwise we shall never make the surrender, never dare to utter that tremendous invocation. Yet even with high valor and firm faith, we cannot see the goal beforehand. We must pass through the darkness, before we see the light. We must lose our lives, to win them.
It is ordained by the law that at the hour of trial each one of us must stand alone. In the final choice, no god may help us, no devil hinder us. For all we can see, we are making the great renunciation for the first time since the dawning of the world. We must descend in utter solitude into the valley of the shadow. Therefore that law which works in smallest things, as in the greatest, has brought it to pass that for a long time we have heard no clear voice from behind the veil, seen no certain leading from those who have reached the other side. And, as time shortens the days of fate, that silence will grow greater, our loneliness will be more complete. And when we realize the purpose of it, we shall thank the gods that this was so. For thus only, through the darkness, could our eyes be made ready for that light which no mortal yet beheld—for to see it is to become immortal; only thus, in the silence, could our ears be attuned to hear the infinite song of life.
All that has been said of our past progress, and of the path we have already passed, is true, and yet a part only of the truth. We stand as the first fruits of ages of effort and sacrifice, ages of toil. And that toil was our own and other’s. Not one of us, but has again and again come close to the heart of the secret, wearing the ground round the doorway with often returning steps. From many lives in many lands, we may draw strength for this our final victory. And victory it shall be. We shall cross the threshold. We shall invoke the Soul, and enter the immortal gateway; and thenceforth we shall live as the artificers and craftsmen of the Soul. The power that made the worlds shall dwell in us in present divinity; and then only shall we know what power means. The wisdom that guided all things shall outshine our human light, and then only shall we know what radiance can flood the heart of man. The Self of all beings shall abide with us; then only shall we be ready for the revelation of our own divinity, and the living divinity of our other selves.