Tis the deep music of the rolling world,
Kindling within the strings of the waved air
Aeolian modulations.—Percy Bysshe Shelley
In the Bhagavid-Gita and the Upanishads it is held that:
Ishwara, the Lord of all things, dwells in the heart of every mortal being, and from that place causes the illusions of the world to appear to man as reality.
Light on the Path dwells upon the necessity of understanding your own heart: It tells us to seek for the source of evil there, where it lives, as fruitfully in the heart of the devoted disciple as in that of the man of desire, and that your heart is the profoundest mystery of all the great obscurities.
Longfellow felt this when, in The Beleaguered City, he sang: —
I have read, in the marvelous heart of man.
That strange and mystic scroll,
That an army of phantoms vast and wan
Beleaguer the human soul.
This verse occurs to him in connection with the old story that the City of Prague was once beleaguered by a vast phantom army, which camped down on the opposite bank of the river, and he likens the human heart to Prague. Here, in the city dwells Ishwara, who, while thus imprisoned, is beleaguered by the vast army — the phantoms of all the acts and thoughts of the person in this and other lives. Occultism declares with the poet, that the heart is a mystic scroll; it is a veritable field also, in which are sown many seeds that may lie unnoticed, not only during one life, but often for many many incarnations, but sure to blossom forth one day under favoring circumstances. And as they begin to grow, they evoke the phantoms of the deeds that sowed them, and those ghostly hosts sweep round the soul in its prison house.
In Resignation, Longfellow wrote: “There is no death! What seems so is transition.”
This is one of the propositions of Occultism. The poet was writing upon the death of the physical body of a girl much beloved, and was considering the change which in common life is known as “death.” But the followers of the Wisdom Religion know that this terrible change is not really death, is not in any sense the moment of decease of even the physical man. The visible being is a congeries of energies or elements which are by no means all dead when the person breathes his last, nor when the body is consigned to the grave. It is only the transition, as Longfellow says, of the informing spirit, to another sphere of action.
The same view is taken in the Atharva Veda, where it says, “Everything is transformed. Life and death are only modes of transformation, which rule the vital molecule from plant up to Brahma himself.”
The occult philosophy considers as death, only that process, and period, of separation between all the various elements of one’s lower human and animal nature; so that, in the case of suicides and other sudden and premature deaths, what occultists know as “death,” extends over a long period of time. The moment called death by the world, is only the time of separation between the body and the life principle, which the Hindus call jiva; this is the moment when the transition begins.
Goethe was a profound student of occultism. Its influence is to be traced throughout his works, and a leading motive in many of his dramas is the dominance over the lives of men of that power which we call Karma. His masterpiece, Faust, upon which a library of commentaries has been written, can only be truly read in the light of Occultism. Faust comes to an end with the following “Mystic Chorus” sung by the assembled Hosts of Heaven:
All that’s impermanent
Is but a likeness.
Here findeth witness;
Here is it done;
Leadeth us on.
A wealth of occult meaning is packed into these eight closing lines of the grand drama, which is designed to depict the course of the soul from Heaven, through earth, back to Heaven. All that is impermanent, or of the earth, belonging to the realm of matter, is but a likeness, or symbol, designed for the instruction of man, who must learn to read the lesson if he is to progress. The Unattainable in the desires of those on and of the earth finds witness, or comes to pass, in the realization of all aspirations in the life beyond. The indescribable is done there, because man in the flesh has no senses adequate to comprehend those things pertaining to a higher plane of existence. The Ever-womanly is that which makes progress of the soul possible — the feminine principle which attracts the masculine, or pure spirit, to its opposite pole and thereby causes it to manifest itself. It is by these successive manifestations that the individual is carried forward, enriched by the experience which only thus, through the attraction of the Ever-womanly, or eternal feminine principle, is attained. So the Ever-womanly, or that whereby God the spirit is made manifest in matter, is the means to lead the soul of man on its course through the grandest possibilities of the Universe to the most exalted heights of the Indescribable. Wordsworth, in his Ode on Immortality, says:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s stay,
Had had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy;
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows —
He sees it in his joy.
The youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is nature’s priest.
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
It is very clear here that Wordsworth is setting down the theory of “Re-incarnation.” For he says the soul had elsewhere its setting; in order to set elsewhere, it must have had elsewhere an existence. He also refers, quite as curiously as do Whitman and Whittier, to a coming from the east, as if he had memories of a previous life in some oriental land where such ideas prevailed.
Shelley in Prometheus Unbound, sings:
Man, O not men! a chain of linked thought,
Of love and might to be divided not,
Compelling the elements with adamantine stress;
As the sun rules, even with a tyrant’s gaze,
The unquiet republic of the maze
Of Planets, struggling fierce towards heaven’s free wilderness.
Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,
Whose nature is its own divine control,
Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;
Familiar acts are beautiful through love;
Labor and pain and grief, in life’s green grove,
Sport like tame beasts, — none knew how gentle they could be!
In the foregoing verses, the doctrine of Brotherhood is enunciated. Shelly refers to humanity as one, composed of its many units, — the one-life running through all; and also, in the first two lines, to the fact admitted by occultism, but sneered at by science, and dogmatic theology, that this “chain of linked thought,” compels the elements, and actually affects the course and destiny of the world. That is, that the Karma of the physical world, indissolubly bound up in that of the individuals upon it, is moulded and concentrated by the force of men’s thoughts and lives. To carry this out in one direction, we say that esoteric theosophy teaches that the inclination of the earth’s axis is made greater or less by the influence of the wickedness or goodness of the people upon the earth, thus bringing down what the people call evils, such as glacial disturbances, cyclones, earthquakes and other vicissitudes of earthly life. However fanciful this theory may appear, it remains for us quite true; and as the scientific world has no reason to give for the inclination of the axis, or for the precession of the equinoxes, we are entitled to hold an opinion where they have none. For the devout Christian this theory ought to have merits, if he chooses to remember that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their wickedness. They grew so horribly bad that fire was brought upon them either from heaven or beneath. If it ever happened, it must have been a cyclic disturbance. Science pooh-poohs it. Did it take place, then it was the culminating point for the dynamic power of the evil deeds and thoughts of the inhabitants.
In many places in the Christian bible, reference is made to the crying out to the Lord of the blood of the slain. Now as blood has no power to cry out, we must try in some way to make sense of these expressions, and the only way is by giving to the thoughts which produce deeds of violence, a dynamic power. It would then be easy to attribute to the blood the ability to cry out for justice, instead of saying that the deeds of blood require compensation.
But when blood is shed, elemental spirits pour in to the spot, drawn there by the emanations arising from it, and they become important factors in this supposed “calling out of the blood from the ground.” Being strengthened by the human exhalations, they are a new force composed not only of the thoughts of the murdered, but also of the despair, hate and revenge of the slain. Science of course of this knows nothing, and cares less. She cannot tell how long this new force, thus compounded of elementals, blood, and the thought of slayer and his victim, will last. But the God of the Christians knew all about this. In Genesis, Ch. iv, Verse 10, He says to Cain:
“What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.”
The blood furnishes the occasion, the thoughts of each give it force, and the elementals give it a voice to call on God.
[For Number II of this series, authored by “Julius”, aka Julia Keightley, see here.]
Many will find in Whitman, the fullest measure of mystic truths, plainly and significantly stated, to be met with in any modern poet. For instance, a recognition of the reality of Reincarnation, and of its necessity, constantly recurs in his poems. Passages like these attest it: “Believing I shall come again upon the earth after five thousand years. Births have brought us richness and variety, and other births have brought us richness and variety.” “And as to you Life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths, (no doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before.)” In contemplating an idiot he muses:
“And I knew for my consolation what they knew not,
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother,
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen tenement,
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages,
And I shall meet the real landlord, perfect and unharmed, every inch as good as myself.”
Are not the “agents,” mentioned above, the operations of Karmic law? Among the last lines of the closing poem of his volume are the following:
“I receive now again of my many translations, from my avatars ascending, while others doubtless await me,
An unknown sphere more real than I dream’d, more direct, darts awakening rays about me, So long!
Remember my words, I may again return.“
Neither rhyme nor verse are essential to true poetry. Even words are but its vehicle, and not the poetry itself. Poetry is that manifestation of the mind which excites the imagination and arouses in responsive minds a sense of beauty. All that which does this is poetic in quality: that which does not, which awakens no response, leaving one cold and unimpressed, is prosaic. Poetry, therefore, possesses the rhythmic quality, for beauty appeals to no sense, except through its power of producing rhythmic action upon the brain through the nerves of sight, hearing, etc. Rhythm is a product of harmonious vibration and produces the sensation of beauty by its play upon the nerves in a succession of reiterated, regular groups of impressions. All sensations of ugliness, etc., which are the causes of pain and disease, are due to the discordant impressions made by irregularity in the series of vibrations. Thus does strict mathematical law underlie all effects of beauty. All poetry is in some way rhythmic, and arouses rhythmic action.
The highest poetry is truth made manifest in the guise of beauty. Poets have often expressed in verse their feeling of the total inadequacy of words to present to others the sublimity and beauty of the thoughts which at moments occur to them. The poetic temperament is one which enables an approach to that state which some exalted men attain in perfection, and which is the ultimate destiny of the entire human race. The poet perceives fragments of the Divine thought as embodied in natural materials; he reads pages of the great book of Creation and interprets more or less clearly the significance of the symbols that exist on every hand in growing things, in things inanimate, in the waters and the heavens, and in the thoughts, sentiments, passions and emotions of men. In assuming the mental state which may be called the poetic attitude, he throws himself into rapport with his Higher self, his atma, and thus obtains a glimpse of the eternal truth, so much of which his memory retains as accords with his personality and with the nature of his mood; of this he incorporates in poetic form that which his power of expression enables him to give. Walt Whitman characterizes this state in his lines:
“I lie abstracted and hear beautiful tales of things and the reasons of things,
They are so beautiful I nudge myself to listen,
I cannot say to any person what I hear — I cannot say it to myself — it is very wonderful!”
The more unconscious one becomes of physical surroundings the more clearly does his mind act; its operations are attended with less friction. By withdrawing his attention from bodily environment he enters upon the plane of the higher consciousness. This accounts for the greater ease with which mental work proceeds after one has been engaged in it for some little time; it absorbs his attention so that the surrounding objects and circumstances no longer distract it. In other words, the mental machinery settles down to smooth running, after overcoming the various hitches and obstructions attending the starting of the train of thought. Everyone knows how earnest devotion to any object makes him oblivious to all else. Under such conditions one, in reality, loses consciousness and is merged in the object. Self, the illusory Self, simply consists in a sense of the existence of the body and the relations borne to it by surrounding objects.
Therefore, in concentration of the mind upon the object lies the true secret of power, and the man who best knows how to do this is the most powerful among his fellows. The best work is that done when one is least conscious of material environment. This accounts for remarkable examples of work done in a somnambulistic state when all consciousness of physical surroundings is lost, and the Self becomes so absorbed in the object that on returning to ordinary consciousness it cannot remember the process of its most perfect activity of thought. And yet people refuse to accept the truth of Reincarnation because they cannot remember, in this gross physical state, their former existences through the intervening Devachanic periods when their consciousness was lifted to a plane above the thralldom of matter!
Whoever knows anything of ceremonial magic, whether practically or theoretically, recognizes the necessity of rhythmic action, or the institutions of a regularly recurring set of vibrations. Many will testify to the marvels wrought by the earnest repetitions of a rhythmic formula. It seems likely that the transfer of consciousness and the performance of phenomenal feats by Adepts are wrought by their command of some formula or method which enables them instantly and perfectly to achieve the harmonious condition of mental vibration crudely acquired by novices only by elaborate processes. The logical inference may be drawn that the purpose of the rhythmic form of poetry is not only to arouse harmonious thoughts in the minds of hearers or readers, but is due to the fact that the poet, by subjecting his mind to a rhythmic flow of thought, opens it to the reception of impressions from the highest source of thought. In the words “I nudge myself to listen” the poet strikingly and graphically depicts the effort to maintain his concentration of mind as he lies abstracted when he feels his attention slipping away from the sublime mysteries which, in the greatness of their wonder, are beyond his power to realize in any thoughts he may frame. Poets are often unconscious of the full greatness of the truths they reveal after the moment of their receptive state has passed, but they, perhaps, awake to a sense of the true significance of their words years after.
This concentration of mind is insisted on in the Hindu systems in many different ways. It is called by them Ekkragrata or one-pointedness. In the dialogues the expression is constantly used, and Krishna is said to say to Arjuna (in Bhagavad-Gita). “Has thou listened to me with thy mind fixed on one point?” It is to bring about such a condition that practitioners of Hatha Yoga — which in English simply means any practice tending to develop psychical powers, such as mediumship and the like — prescribe that the Yogee shall sit with his sight concentrated upon the tip of his nose. And this practice, although scarcely commendable, has a scientific basis which shows that the much belittled Aryans had a wonderful fund of knowledge. The fixing of the eyes upon the tip of the nose puts the focus about three inches from the eyeball, and that produces first, concentration, because of the effort to remain fixed, and secondly, a hypnotic state in which trance results with psychic vision and the like. They prescribed it for another reason not likely to be admitted by our science; three inches from the eyes was said by them to be the clairvoyant point.
Our poet Whitman, whether he was aware of it or not, constantly enunciated the doctrine of Karma. In “Assurances,” to be found in Leaves of Grass, he says:
I need no assurances. I am a man who is pre-occupied of his own soul;
I do not doubt that from under the feet and beside the hands and face I am cognizant of, are now looking faces I am not cognizant of, calm and actual faces.
I do not doubt but the majesty and beauty of the world are latent in any iota of the world.
I do not doubt I am limitless, and that the universes are limitless; in vain I try to think how limitless.
I do not doubt that the orbs and the systems of orbs play their swift sports through the air on purpose, and that I shall one day be eligible to do as much as they, and more than they.
I do not doubt that temporary affairs keep on and on millions of years.
I do not doubt interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another eyesight, and the hearing another hearing, and the voice another voice.
I do not doubt that the passionately-wept deaths of young men are provided for, and that the deaths of young women and the deaths of little children are provided for.
(Did you think life was so well provided for, and Death, the purport of all life,not well provided for?)
I do not doubt that wrecks at sea, no matter what the horror of them, no matter, whose wife, child, husband, father, lover, has gone down, are provided for to the minutest points.
I do not doubt that whatever can possibly happen anywhere at any time, is provided for in the inherences of things.
I do not think Life provides for all and for Time and Space, but I believe Heavenly Death provides for all.
Here he dwells upon the belief that all things are provided for. It would be error to say that he was a fatalist, just as it is a mistake to hold that the Mohammedan doctrine of “Kismet” is pure fatalism. Edwin Arnold in “Pearls of the Faith,” enlarges on that pearl called Al-Kadar, in these words:
“When ye say Kismet, say it wittingly, O, true believers! under Allah’s throne place is not left for those accursed three, ‘Destiny,’ ‘Fortune,’ ‘Chance.’ Allah alone ruleth his children: Kismet ye shall deem each man’s alloted portion * * *”
And Whitman plainly states that the provision which is made for all the happenings is a provision existing “in the inherences of things,” and not a fatalistic decree by an irresponsible Almighty.
He also says that he is limitless. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. Everyone is limitless, for Ishwara, the Lord, dwells in the heart of every mortal being. Jesus also, said: “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” Now the kingdom of heaven cannot be apart from God, so that the Nazarene herein says the same thing as the Upanishads.
Again, in the lines, “I do not doubt that interiors have their interiors, and exteriors have their exteriors, and that the eyesight has another eyesight, and the hearing another hearing, and the voice another voice,” Whitman might be said to be taking the words from the mouths of those sages who in ancient India penned the Upanishads. In those it is incessantly insisted that these interiors really are the Universal Self which is “the eye of the eye and the hearing of the ear.” And a knowledge of that is the key to unlock the doors of glory and praise. As it is beautifully said in Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad: 1
“This Self is the footstep of everything, for through it one knows everything. And as one can find again by footsteps what was lost, thus he who knows this finds glory and praise.”
And further, “Therefore, now, also, he who thus knows that he is Brahman (the Self) becomes all this, and even the Devas cannot prevent it, for he himself is their Self.”
1. Bri-Up. I Adh., 4 Brah., 7.
Whitman, in his short and remarkable poem, “To him that was Crucified,” perceives very clearly the verity of Mahatmahood; the existence of men who live upon a higher plane than that of ordinary mortals, and who are united in an order of spiritual brotherhood. The poem runs: 1
My spirit to yours, dear brother,
Do not mind because many sounding your name do not understand you,
I do not sound your name, but I understand you,
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since, and those to come also,
That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and succession,
We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times,
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers nor anything that is asserted,
We hear the bawling and din, we are reached at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side,
They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and woman of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are.
These lines, sublime as they are, will probably be regarded as little short of blasphemous by many of our good friends who, sounding his name, do not understand him; who, worshipping him as the only Man-God, have lost sight of the God in man, the Christ, the potential development of which in all men was the great lesson which the Nazarene sought to convey. They little think that he whose name they sound may perhaps be walking the earth today, striving to bring men to the light, but despised and rejected by themselves because in an unrecognized and strange guise, while the same old truths are again trampled upon, since they lack the endorsement of established authority.
The poet, however, shows that he, too broad to be limited by one name, truly understands the mission of Jesus; he, with his own grand teachings of universal brotherhood despised and misunderstood because of their unfamiliar form, is elevated by the sublimity of the truths that inspire himself to the level which gives him the right to address the founder of Christianity as a comrade. He sees, too, with a directness that probably has come to no other modern poet, that there is a band of “Equals” working for the same end, “transmitting the same charge and succession,” through all races, through all ages, and giving vitality to all religions. The free, uninfluenced attitude which he who would grow towards the light must maintain is expressed here with most effective simplicity, as is the end for which THEY are striving — so to saturate the world and all eras with their precepts as finally to lift all mankind into the unity of perfect Brotherhood.
The true mental abnegation is here referred to, just as Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita tries to teach Arjuna. In speaking of the necessity for retiring to the forest so as to attain perfection untroubled by man, he says to Arjuna that the true philosopher will look with equal mind upon all classes of men, upon all systems of thought and all objects of sense, esteeming all alike, inasmuch as they are all one in the Supreme Spirit, and that spirit found in each, so that to retire to the forest is not a necessity. Thus Whitman says that he and all others of the same mind, are indifferent of lands, times, disputes or disputers, allowers of all theologies, because they well know — as occultism teaches — that each theology and each assertion is one facet of the great Truth.
The result of this state of mind is beautifully set forth in the lines which say that amid the bawling and din, reached at by divisions and jealousies on every side that close peremptorily upon us to surround and fetter us, we walk free, unheld by all, because we are fixed upon the immutable rock of the True. This is the imperturbability sought by the ancient Chinese philosophers, who, themselves students of occultism, esteemed that equanimity above all else.
There are various passages throughout Whitman’s poems that intimate a perception, perhaps intuitive, of the existences of the Masters. For instance, he says, “I see the serene company of philosophers,” and in “A Song of the Rolling Earth” are the lines:
“The workmanship of souls is by those inaudible words of the earth,
The masters know the earth’s words and use them more than audible words.”
And again, towards the end of the same poem:
“When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall appear.”
The thought here is identical with that in “Light on the Path” (note to Rule 21, First Section):
“Therefore in the Hall of Learning, when he is capable of entering there, the disciple will always find his master.”
And in the following note:
“When the disciple is ready to learn, then he is accepted, acknowledged, recognized. It must be so; for he has lit his lamp, and it cannot be hidden.”
The poem in question concludes with the following exalted lines which contain a significant statement of one of the great truths of Occultism:
“I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail,
I swear to you they will understand you and justify you,
The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses all and is faithful to all,
He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you are not an iota less than they,
You shall be fully glorified in them.”
It is hardly possible to say whether or not the poet means that these architects are in one sense the various, changeful mortal costumes the human monad had here and there, in many races and places, assumed while passing through the wheel of re-births. When he says that the architects “will understand you and justify you,” we may easily picture the time when the regenerated man, now able to see all his illusionary entrances upon the stage of life under the costume of varied personalities, can understand that all these different incarnations were fully justified by the need for the particular experience found in each new life, and thus he himself is glorified and justified by these architects, who were really himself.
Complete proof of Whitman’s belief in re-incarnation is to be found in the following lines from “facing West from California’s Shores:”
Facing west from California’s shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar,
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled;
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands,
Long having wander’d since, round the earth having wander’d.
Now I face home again, very pleas’d and joyous.
(But where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)
This last query is answered in Light on the Path (rule 12, § I.): “You will enter the light, but you will never touch the flame.” The Self is what we seek. It resides in the heart of every mortal creature “smaller than a grain of mustard seed;” the heart is in the Sun — and now we speak of the real heart and the real spiritual sun which is “now hidden by a vase of golden light” — (as the Upanishads say) — the Sun in the mouth of Brahman and Brahman is the All.
1. From Leaves of Grass.