“These are but passing vestures of the everlasting lord; he suffers no detriment, he is illimitable; therefore, son of warriors, fight!
“He who sees the Soul as making an end, he who sees the Soul as suffering an ending,—err both; for the Soul destroys not, nor is destroyed.
“It begins not with birth, nor ends with death, nor, coming to being, shall it pass away; beginningless, eternal, everlasting, the Ancient passes not when the vesture passes.
“He who has the vision of this eternal who suffers no loss for ever, this Unborn who passes not away, whom does he kill, son of princes, whom does he slay?
“As a man lays aside worn vestures and takes others new, so the lord of all vestures putting worn-out forms aside, takes other new ones.
“Him weapons wound not, nor fire burns; him waters wet not, nor dry winds parch; for not to be hurt by sword or fire, by water or parching wind is this one everlasting in all, this unshaken rock immemorial.”—Songs of the Master.
Even troops of no great experience, fresh to the art of war, often meet a sudden attack well, and stand up against it with a steady courage which brings victory; but there is a moment after the victory, which tries even the stoutest veterans. There comes a lull, a relaxation, when, nothing more remains to be done, nothing to be suffered, and the removal of the fighting strain leaves everything vague and uncertain, giving nothing which the will can grasp or lay hold of; then even the most tried and trusted soldier sometimes go to pieces, their nerve utterly breaking down. In that hour of weakness, there often enter seeds of pestilence and plague which destroy more victims than war; and this penalty every country has suffered, after a sternly fought campaign, most of all when it has resulted in victory.
We are at that dead point now, or just passing it; with the turn of the year we should begin once more to feel our energies rise and grow, for the days that are to come. But meanwhile we should each and all be prepared for that old reaction after toil, when we come to ask what good was it, whether it was worth while, and, most of all, to wonder, with great discouragement, what is coming next. It would be more than miraculous, if this law overlooked us; and we can even gain a certain grim reassurance from the fact that, in the divine dispensation of nature’s backwash, we are not forgotten.
One has heard it said of the letters of a sage to his disciples, that they contain nothing new, nothing which has not been said long ago, in all our books. Like most things people say, and many things they do, this judgment is infinitely shallow; it is like accusing a master of mathematics of only taking the formula from the books, to solve the orbit of a new comet. The weak disciples who bring such criticism to bear, might have their latent sense of humor stirred and drawn forth to daylight, if they realized that, not only in the wise books of our own generation, but in those of five thousand or ten thousand years ago, every phase of their green-sickness was already clearly described and well provided for. So it is not to be wondered at, if there is provision also for this gloom and lassitude of ours.
The truth is, we have come to the end of the old; we have as yet no certain grip of the new; and, to use the good old parable, having set hand to the plough, we are at this moment debating with ourselves the expediency of looking back, and thereby damning ourselves, as unfit for the kingdom. The mood is a trying one, a period of nervous doubt that strains the strongest wills; and for this reason above all, that we cannot even lay hold of anything to find fault with, can identify no one on whom to lay the blame. Fate has been unkind to us in that; for it is infinitely easier to belabour the scapegoat than to lay hold of the matter, and set it right for ourselves.
Half the trouble goes, when we give it a form and name, and steadily look it in the face; when we realize that these dog-days of the soul, like all the moods that pass before it, like all the vestures which it wears, are but passing veils of the everlasting lord, and that he suffers no detriment. Even the clear recognition of the mood of weak desponding is the will’s first effort to put it away. And here we gain a second grain of consolation: the will is with us. The soul, lord of the will, has a fine reserve of inherent energy, to bring forth against just such a lull in valor as this, and that store of power is easily adequate to the not very stern task of tiding us over. We are far stronger than we know, and it takes all turns of mood and circumstance to teach us our full strength.
And here come prescriptions rife from the ancient books, written in the days when men possessed their souls, and were not afraid to say so; the first counsel is, that it is not we ourselves who are to contribute the energy for our future moving, nor even we who are to choose the way. All that has been done long ago, by the Soul which had no beginning, the Soul which shall have no end. The choice of the way and anxious deliberation of means, are of the mind only; and we have done with the mind’s leading, when we come into the sunlight of the Soul; henceforth, the mind’s duty will only be to catch the intuition, and make it applicable to our daily life, but the intuition itself does not come from the mind.
So that what we have to do, has been settled long ago, and lies already perfect in the Soul; our task is merely to give it being in the natural world, making a body for it by our wills. And as the work is a work of the Soul, it cannot spring from any lower source, from our desires or from our fears, from our ambitions or from our hopes. Therefore these things must stand aside, as motive powers. And it is to this very withdrawal of hope and fear, of ambition and desire, so long the causes and sources of all we have done, that our present lassitude is due; that quietness and loneliness is really the portal of the Soul, the one portal through which it can enter life. And our deep unrest is the herald of its coming.
We must take to heart what has so long sat easily on our lips: that we are immortal; that the Soul in us can suffer no detriment; that its intimate nature is joy; that our heritage is power. And keeping in mind that our future work is of the immortal, of the Soul, we shall better understand the reason of our perplexity; for what can our minds yet conceive of the clear purpose and destiny of our immortal selves? And that purpose and that destiny must mirror themselves from the Soul into our minds, before we can take the next step forward. What we can do, is, not to add new luster and vision to the Soul, for the Soul already knows all things, but to prepare ourselves to receive the message, and then, perhaps hardest of all, to wait.
Every taint of self-seeking for our ambitions and our desires must be laid aside; have indeed been laid aside, before we have reached the place of loneliness and gloom; though we shall still carry out all those energies through which of old, unlike charity, we sought our own. Here, indeed, lies one secret of health: to carry on, through mere industry and by a sort of divine obstinacy, the outer and material frame-work of our lives, even in loneliness; even in gloom; for this very activity of ours, free now from all self-seeking, is a potent invocation to the Soul. Overshadowing us from of old, that immemorial Ancient has through all our days been seeking to pass the message on to us; but we have ever been too prepossessed and preoccupied by our ambitions and our desires; thus making a false usurping self, as center of these desires, which stood as an impediment of the Soul. Now that the barrier-self has been melted away or broken up by storms, our whole midworld is an empty and unrestful void, crying out to be filled; and our doubt is the echo of that cry.
We must guard ourselves against seeking to frame the message too soon into words; into phrases and reasons intelligible to our minds; for by doing that, we should invite certain confusion. The message must first work a transformation in us; only then shall we he attuned to understand it. But this much we can easily put into words: our work is, here in the great heart of being, to lead the life of immortal powers. And the first part of an immortal is, to be rid of fear. The Soul can suffer no detriment; therefore what can we fear? weapons wound it not, nor does fire burn it, waters wet it not, nor is it withered by desert winds. And this is as true of the fires and storms of passion or sorrow as of the fire and wind of the natural world. Passion and sorrow do not touch the Soul; and that Soul we are; therefore we should sit serene.
But the Soul is lord of the will; and the will perpetually creates, or is ready incessantly to create, when the way to it shall be opened by the passing of desire. Therefore the liberation of the Soul in us will make us builders and creators. All that we do, will have a new efficacy and sterling quality, even in the smallest things, we who were perpetually smitten with weakness, devoid of the grasp and energy to strike home, to fight to the finish, shall begin to see a new vigor and strength in all our works, shall find them at last adequate, able to stand, able to suffer strain and stress. In the days of our desires, we found all enterprises crumbling under our hands; and, as the near presence of the Soul made us half-hearted in our desires, and inwardly untrue to them, all that we conceived in desire failed to come to the birth; we were under a curse of inefficiency, even in little things. Nor among people altogether driven by desire, can any gain success or wealth by strongly desiring them; the successful and wealthy are those who are driven on by their genius, quite unconsciously to themselves; they are carrying on some great work, of which many or all equally reap the fruit; and in proportion as they interpose their desires in the way of their genius, they are cursed and tainted by inefficiency. The great masters of success are slaves to the creative will; and we can emulate their success, not by imitating their energies, but by embodying in ourselves the different work the will has in store for us.
Therefore, as a first reward, we shall have a release of power, a fresh flood from within, making us able to do better all that we do, and making us able to do that better thing which, hitherto, we have not been able to do at all. Scripture quotation is in order; let us take a scriptural enunciation of this same law of efficacy through renunciation. Besides the shorter promise to those who seek first the realm and righteousness, that, ‘all these things shall be added unto you’, we have a specific prophecy: ‘he shall receive an hundredfold, now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands; and in the world to come, life everlasting.’ We are to keep in mind that the followers of him who made this promise are now, and have been for centuries, the greatest owners of real estate in the world. But apart from its particular application, the law holds good everywhere; immense increased efficiency in every part of our lives, the moment we surrender to the Soul. Yet the hope of that power can never be the motive of the surrender.
So that one fruitful ground for apprehensions should really bear a better crop; a crop of hopes, not fears. Yet we shall err, if we take this increased worldly efficiency to be the only, or even the chief end. It is merely an outward accident; the bloom on the fruit. But the fruit itself is the Soul, which carries as a seed within it, the promise of its own proper work; a work which has little enough to do with this nether world, except to transform it into the likeness of its own immortal dwelling-place.
The work of the Soul is the irradiation of life; for ourselves, for our other selves, for our oneness with the All-self. A union in eternal power for these three, and no lesser task, we shall do well to ponder over every word spoken of the Soul, by the sages of old; every word should be a gleam of light to us. It is the lord of all veils and vestures; therefore of our present discontent, which is but its veil. It suffers no detriment, therefore our terror dies. It causes no detriment, therefore how far soever the Soul may lead us, we shall never thereby risk to injure others, and so should die another cause of fear. For all souls work in so true a harmony that the better I mind my own business, the better I am serving yours, and this for lasting and immortal ends. Egotisms can do and suffer detriment, and this is the tragedy of the world; but souls, in the light of the Soul, neither slay nor are slain. Follow your genius to the last, and you make all men your debtors. The Soul wears out old vestures and old forms, and lays firm grasp on others new; and this sloughing of old forms by the Power in us is always a time of pain, of uncertainty, of doubt. It does not yet appear what we shall be.
But in this last quietness, is made really the most excellent work; for the conceiving and inspiration of that work, not we are answerable; it comes from deeper fountains than our wells. Therefore we should throw aside this mantle of apprehension and dread, of doubt and fear. Doubt and fear also are provided for. We cannot lift the clouds, but we can await the sunlight. We cannot bring the light, but we can receive the light; that lonely radiance that never was on land or sea. We cannot engender the will, but we can carry out the will, when it arises newborn in us. Therefore, sons of warriors, fight!