The Highest Desire
The highest desire any reasonable man can cherish and the highest right he may possibly claim, is to become perfect. To know everything, to love all and be known and beloved by all, to possess and command everything that exists, such is a condition of being that, to a certain extent, may be felt intuitively, but whose possibility cannot be grasped by the intellect of mortal man.
A foretaste of such a blissful condition may be experienced by a person who -- even for a short period of time -- is perfectly happy. He who is not oppressed by sorrow, not excited by selfish desires, and who is conscious of his own strength and liberty, may feel as if he were the master of worlds and the king of creation; and, in fact, during such moments he is their ruler, as far as he himself is concerned, although his subjects may not seem to be aware of his existence.
But when he awakes from his dream and looks through the windows of his senses into the exterior world, and begins to reason about his surroundings, his vision fades away; he beholds himself a child of the Earth, a mortal form, bound with many chains to a speck of dust in the Universe, on a ball of matter called a planet that floats in the infinity of space. The ideal world, that perhaps a moment before appeared to him as a glorious reality, may now seem to him the baseless fabric of a dream, in which there is nothing real, and physical existence, with all its imperfections, is now to him the only unquestionable reality, and its most dear illusions the only things worthy of his attention. He sees himself surrounded by material forms, and he seeks to discover among these forms that which corresponds to his highest ideal.
The highest desire of a mortal is to attain fully that which exists in himself as his highest ideal. A person without an ideal is unthinkable. To be conscious is to realise the existence of some ideal, to relinquish the ideal world would be death. A person without any desire for some ideal would be useless in the economy of nature, a person having all his desires satisfied needs to live no longer, for life can be of no further use to him. Each one is bound to his own ideal; he whose ideal is mortal must die when his ideal dies, he whose ideal is immortal must become immortal himself to attain it.
Each man's highest ideal should be his own higher spiritual self. Man's semi-animal self, which we see expressed in his physical form, is not the whole of man. Man may be regarded as an invisible power or ray extending from the (spiritual) Sun to the Earth. Only the lower end of that ray is visible, where it has evolved an organised material body; by means of which the invisible ray draws strength from the earth below. If all the life and thought-force evolved by the contact with matter are spent within the material plane, the higher spiritual self will gain nothing by it. Such a person resembles a plant developing nothing but its root. When death breaks the communication between the higher and lower, the lower self will perish, and the ray will remain what it was, before it evolved a mortal inhabitant of the material world.
Interior and External Worlds
Man lives in two worlds, in his interior and in the exterior world. Each of these worlds exists under conditions peculiar to itself, and that world in which he lives is for the time being the most real to him. When he enters into his interior world during deep sleep or in moments of perfect abstraction, the forms perceived in the exterior world fade away; but when he awakes in the exterior world the impressions received in his interior state are forgotten, or leave only their uncertain shadows on the sky. To live simultaneously in both worlds is only possible to him who succeeds in harmoniously blending his internal and external worlds into one.
The so-called Real seldom corresponds with the Ideal, and often it happens that man, after many unsuccessful attempts to realise his ideals in the exterior world, returns to his interior world with disappointment, and resolves to give up his search; but if he succeeds in the realisation of his ideal, then arises for him a moment of happiness, during which time, as we know it, exists for him no more, the exterior world is then blended with his interior world, his consciousness is absorbed in the enjoyment of both, and yet he remains a man.
Artists and poets may be familiar with such states. An inventor who sees his invention accepted, a soldier coming victorious out of the struggle for victory, a lover united with the object of his desire, forgets his own personality and is lost in the contemplation of his ideal. The extatic saint, seeing the Redeemer before him, floats in an ocean' of rapture, and his consciousness is centred in the ideal that he himself has created out of his own mind, but which is as real to him as if it were a living form of flesh. Shakespeare's Juliet finds her mortal ideal realised in Romeo's youthful form. United with him, she forgets the rush of time, night disappears, and she is not conscious of it; the lark heralds the dawn and she mistakes its song for the singing of the nightingale. Happiness measures no time and knows no danger. But Juliet's ideal is mortal and dies; having lost her ideal Juliet must die; but the immortal ideals of both become again one as they enter the immortal realm through the door of physical death.
But as the sun rose too early for Juliet, so all evanescent ideals that have been realised in the external world vanish soon. An ideal that has been realised ceases to be an ideal; the ethereal forms of the interior world, if grasped by the rude hand of mortals and embodied in matter, must die. To grasp an immortal ideal, man's mortal nature must die before he can grasp it.
Low ideals may be killed, but their death calls similar ones into existence. From the blood of a vampire that has been slain a swarm of vampires arises. A selfish desire fulfilled makes room for similar desires, a gratified passion is chased away by other similar passions, a sensual craving that has been stilled gives rise to new cravings. Earthly happiness is short-lived and often dies in disgust; the love of the immortal alone is immortal. Material acquisitions perish, because forms are evanescent and die. Intellectual accomplishments vanish, for the products of the imagination, opinions, and theories, are subject to change. Desires and passions change and memories fade away.
He who clings to old memories, clings to that which is dead. A child becomes a man, a man an old man, an old man a child; the playthings of childhood give way to intellectual playthings, but when the latter have served their purpose, they appear as useless as did the former, only spiritual realities are everlasting and true.
In the ever-revolving kaleidoscope of nature the aspect of illusions continually changes its form. What is laughed at as a superstition by one century is often accepted as the basis of science for the next, and what appears as wisdom to-day may be looked upon as an absurdity in the great to-morrow. Nothing is permanent but the truth.
The Germ of Truth
But where can man find the truth? If he seeks deep enough in himself he will find it revealed, each man may know his own heart. He may let a ray of the light of intelligence into the depths of his soul and search its bottom, he will find it to be as infinitely deep as the sky above his head. He may find corals and pearls, or watch the monsters of the deep. If his thought is steady and unwavering, he may enter the innermost sanctuary of his own temple and see the goddess unveiled.
Not every one can penetrate into such depths, because the thought is easily led astray; but the strong and persisting searcher will penetrate veil after veil, until at the innermost centre he discovers the germ of truth, which, awakened to self-consciousness, will grow in him into a sun that illuminates the whole of his interior world.
Such an interior meditation and elevation of thought in the innermost centre of the soul, is the only true prayer. The adulation of an external form, whether living or dead, whether existing objectively or merely subjectively in the imagination, is useless, and serves only to deceive. It is very easy to attend to forms of external worship, but the true worship of the living God within requires a great effort of will and a power of thought, and is in fact the exercise of a spiritual power received from God. God in us prays to himself. Our business consists in continual guarding of the door of the sacred lodge, so that no illegitimate thoughts may enter the mind to disturb the holy assembly whose deliberations are presided over by the spirit of wisdom.
How shall we know the truth? It can be known only if it becomes revealed within the soul. Truth, having awakened to consciousness, knows that it is; it is the god-principle in man, which is infallible and cannot be misled by illusions. If the surface of the soul is not lashed by the storms of passion, if no selfish desires exist to disturb its tranquillity, if its waters are not darkened by reflections of the past, we will see the image of eternal truth mirrored in the deep.
To know the truth in its fulness is to become alive and immortal, to lose the power of recognising the truth is to perish in death. The voice of truth in a person that has not yet awakened to spiritual life, is the "still small voice" that may be heard in the heart, listened to by the soul, as a half-conscious dreamer listens to the ringing of bells in the distance,* but in those that have become conscious of life, having received the baptism of the first initiation administered by the spirit of God, the voice heard by the new-born ego has no uncertain sound, but becomes the powerful Word of the Master.
* See H. P. Blavatsky: "The voice of the silence."
The awakened truth is self-conscious and self-sufficient, it knows that it exists. It stands higher than all theories and creeds and higher than science, it does not need to be corroborated by "recognised authorities," it cares not for the opinion of others, and its decisions suffer no appeal. It knows neither doubt nor fear, but reposes in the tranquillity of its own supreme majesty. It can neither be altered nor changed, it always was and ever remains the same, whether mortal man perceives it or not. It may be compared to the light of the earthly sun, that cannot be excluded from the world, but from which man may exclude himself.
We may blind ourselves to the perception of the truth, but the truth itself is not thereby changed. It illuminates the minds of those who have awakened to immortal life. A small room requires a little flame, a large room a great light for its illumination, but in either room the light shines equally clear in each; in the same manner the light of truth shines into the hearts of the illumined with equal clearness, but with a power differing according to their individual capacity.
It would be perfectly useless to attempt to describe this interior illumination. Only that which exists relatively to ourselves has a real existence for us, that of which we know nothing does not exist for us. No real knowledge of the existence of light can be furnished to the blind, no experience of transcendental knowledge can be given to those whose capacity to know does not transcend the realm of external appearances.
Truth, the Highest Ideal
There is nothing higher than truth, and the acquisition of truth is therefore man's highest ideal. The highest ideal in the Universe must be a universal ideal. The constitution of all men is built according to one universal law, and the highest ideal must be the same to all and attainable to all, and in its attainment all individuals become reunited. As long as the soul of man does not recognise the highest ideal in the Universe, the highest one which he is able to recognise will be the highest to him; but as long as there still exists a higher one than the one he perceives, the higher will unconsciously attract him, unless he forcibly and persistingly repulses its attraction.
Only the attainment of the highest ideal in the Universe can give eternal and permanent happiness, for having attained the highest there is nothing left that could possibly be desired. As long as there is still a higher ideal for man, he will have aspirations to reach it, but having reached the highest all attraction ceases, he becomes one with it and can desire nothing more.
There must be a state of perfection which all may reach and beyond which none can advance, until the Universe as, a whole advances beyond it. All men have the same right to reach the highest, but not all have the same power developed, some may reach it soon, others may lag on the road, and perhaps the majority may fall and have to begin again at the foot of the ladder. Each ripe acorn that falls from an oak has the inherent capacity to develop into an oak; but not each finds the same conditions for development. Some may grow, a few may develop into trees, but the majority will enter into decomposition to furnish material out of which new forms may be developed.
The highest truth in its fulness is not known to man in the mortal form. Those that have attained to a state of perfect consciousness of infinite truth are not imprisoned in a limited form, they belong to a formless tribe; they could not be one with an universal principle if they were tied by the chains of personality; a soul expanded, so that the prison-house of flesh can hold it no more, will require that prison-house no longer. Flesh and blood is only required to shelter the spirit in the infancy of his development, as long as he has not attained full power. The "clothes of skin"* were needed to protect him against the destructive elementary influences of the sphere of evil as long as he could not rise above evil. Having attained the knowledge of evil and the power to subdue it, and having by the realisation of the truth "eaten from the tree of life and attained substantiality,"** he can protect himself by his own power, and requires his clothes of flesh no longer.
* Bible: Genesis iii. 21.
** Bible: Genesis iii. 22.
Imperfectly developed man, unless he has become degraded, feels intuitively that which is true, but does not know the truth by direct perception. The externalist who reasons only from the plane of sensual perceptions is farthest from a recognition of the truth, because he mistakes the illusions produced by his senses for the reality, and repulses the revelations of his own spirit. The philosopher, unable to see the truth, attempts to grasp it with his logic, and may approach it to a certain extent; but he, in whom the truth has attained its own self-consciousness, knows the truth because he is himself one with it.
Such a state is incomprehensible to the majority of men, to scientists and philosophers as well as to the ignorant; nevertheless, men have existed, and exist to-day, who have attained it. They are the true Theosophists, but not everyone is a Theosophist who goes by the name of "Theosophist," nor is everyone a Christ who is called a Christian. But a true Theosophist and a true Christian are one and the same, because both are human forms in which the universal spiritual soul, the Christ or the light of Divine Wisdom, has become manifest.
The terms "Christian" or "Theosophist," like so many other terms of a similar kind, have almost entirely lost their true meaning. A "Christian" now-a-days means a person whose name is inscribed in the register of some so-called Christian Church, and performs the ceremonies prescribed by that social organisation; while a "Theosophist" is said to be a visionary or dreamer.
But a real Christian is something entirely different from a merely external one. The first Christians were a secret organisation, a school of Occultists, who adopted certain symbols and signs, in which to represent spiritual truths, and thus to communicate them to each other.
A real Theosophist is not a dreamer, but a most practical person. By purity of life he acquires the power to perceive higher truths than average man is able to see, and he understands the things which he sees, because he possesses a spiritual knowledge gained by many a life of self-denial in repeated reincarnations.
As fundamental truth, the life of all things is only one; men in all countries, having attained self-consciousness in it, have the same perception. This explains why the revelations of the sages are identical with each other. The truths revealed by a Jackob Boehme, Eckhart, or Paracelsus in Germany, are essentially the same as those revealed by the Thibetan Mahatmas, they only differ in extent and in mode of expression.
A true Christian saint in England or France would tell the same tale as a real Brahmin in India or a truly wise red Indian in America; because all three, being in the same state of clear perception, would exactly see the same thing. The truth is there, visible to all who possess it, but each will describe what he sees according to his mode of thinking and in his own fashion.
If -- as the ignorant believe -- all the visions of saints and lamas, sanyaasi, and dervishes, were only the result of hallucinations and fancies, not two of them, having never heard of each other, would have the same vision. A tree will be a tree to all who are able to see it, and if their sight is clear no arguments will change it into an oyster; a truth will be seen as a truth by all who are able to see it, and no sophistry will change it into a lie. To know the whole truth is to know everything that exists; to love the truth above all is to become united with everything; to be able to express the truth in its fulness is to possess universal power; to be one with immortal truth is to be for ever immortal.
Tranquillity of Soul
The capacity of perceiving the truth depends on the tranquillity of the soul. The soul not being true cannot realise truth, it can at best dream of it as of something existing in another world. The sound of the voice of the truth cannot penetrate through the noise caused by the turmoil in the heart; its light cannot break through the clouds of false theories and the smoke of opinions which inhabit the brain.
To understand that voice and to behold that light distinctly and without any foreign admixture, heart and head should be at rest. To perceive the truth, purity of heart and self-control should go hand in hand, and it is therefore taught that men must become as unsophisticated as children and strong as lions before they can enter the sphere of truth. Head and heart, if united, are One, but if they act against each other they form the absurd Two that produces illusions.
The emotional maniac is only guided by his heart, the intellectual fool only listens to the dictates of his head, he lives in his head and knows not the heart. But neither the revelry of the emotions nor intellectual fanaticism discloses the truth; only in the "stillness that follows the storm,"* when the harmony of both is restored, can the truth be discovered.
A man who only follows the dictates of his emotions, resembles one who in ascending a mountain peak becomes dizzy, and losing his power to control himself, falls over a precipice; a man who is only guided by his sensual perceptions influencing his intellect is easily lost in the whirlpool of multifarious illusions. He is like a person on an island in the ocean examining a drop of water taken from the ocean, and being blind to the existence of the ocean from which that drop has been taken. But if heart and head are attuned to the divine harmonies of the invisible realm of nature, then will the truth reveal itself to man, and in him will the highest ideal see its own image reflected.
We sometimes hear some people boast that they are controlled by their intellect, others are guided by their emotions; a free man is not controlled by either of the two; he is his own master guiding his heart and his mind. By the power of the god in him he controls the intellectual workings of his brain no less than the emotions of his heart. Heart and brain are not ourselves. They are instruments which have been lent to us by our Creator. They should not govern us; but we should govern them, and use them according to the dictates of his wisdom.
Material man, entombed in his chrysalis of clay, can only feel, but not see, the spiritual rays that radiate from the sun of infinite truth; but if he bids his emotions be still! and commands his reasoning power be not deluded! he may stretch his feelers into the realm of the spirit. In dealing with the unseen, his heart should be used as a touchstone to examine the conclusions arrived at by the brain, and the brain should be employed like scales to weigh the decisions of the heart; but when the light of divine wisdom comes to his aid, there will be no more difference of opinion between the head and the heart, the perceptions of the one will be in harmony with the aspirations of the latter, because both will be joined in the light.
Man is usually guided principally by his intellect, woman by her emotions; man represents intelligence, woman the will. To reason from external appearances has become a necessity to men in consequence of their material organisation, which like a shell surrounds their soul; but if the innermost spiritual man, sleeping in every heart, awakens to life, he emits a light that penetrates through the veil of matter and illuminates the mind. If this germ of divinity, hidden in the centre, awakens, it emits a spiritual light, which reaches from man to the stars and to the utmost limits of space, and by the help of that divine light the mind may perceive and penetrate into the deepest mysteries of the Universe. Those who are able to know the truth by direct perception do not need to be informed of it by others, the whole of the visible and invisible realm lies open before them, like a book in whose pages they may read the whole history of the world. They know all the manifestations of life, because they are one with the source of life from which all forms were born, they need not study letters, because the Word itself is living in them. They are the instruments through whom eternal wisdom reveals itself to those who are entombed in matter. These are the true Saviours, Adepts, Illuminates, Rosicrucians, Mahatmas, and Theosophoi; not those pretenders who merely fancy to be what they not really are.
The Vanity of the "Learned"
How pitiful must appear to the enlightened the war of opinions raging among those whom humanity believes to be the keepers of knowledge and wisdom; how insignificantly small appear those lights before the sun of divine truth. What appears as a light to the ignorant, appears to the illuminated seer as darkness and smoke, and the wisdom of the world becomes foolishness * before the eye of the truth.
* 1 Cor. iii. 19.
The oyster in its shell may believe itself at the pinnacle of perfection, and that there is no higher existence than that which it enjoys in the ocean-bed; the self-conceited, proud of his learning, is swelled with vanity, knowing little how little he knows.
Many of the representatives of modern science forget that the greatest inventions have been made, not by the professed guardians of science, but by men with a clear perception, and upon whom they looked with contempt. They ought to remember, that many useful inventions were made and introduced, not with the assistance, but in spite of the opposition of the learned.
It may be disagreeable to call up unpleasant memories, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that the inventors of railroads, steamships, and telegraphs have been ridiculed by professors of science, that men of science have laughed at the belief in the rotundity of the earth, and that some of the appointed keepers of the truth have often been conspicuous on account of their misunderstanding of the laws of nature, and of their opposition to truth, whenever it conflicted with their preconceived opinions.
Many useful discoveries have been made through the power of intuition; some have been made by logical reasoners without intuition, and their results are still a curse to mankind. For centuries the learned professions have been thriving on human suffering, and many of their followers, mistaking the low for the high, have prostituted their knowledge.
The fear of an illusory devil external to man has served to swell the money-bags of Brahmins and priests, while the real internal devils, residing in the passionate nature of man, were allowed to grow. For centuries many of the self-appointed servants of the Supreme have only served the golden calf, residing in their animal nature, feeding their followers with false hopes of immortality, and speculating on the selfish propensities of men.
Those to whom humanity looks for protection against bodily ills, and who therefore -- more than anybody else -- should understand the real constitution of man, still experiment with the physical form to seek the cause of disease, being ignorant of the fact that the form is an expression of life, the product of the soul, and that external effects cannot be effectually changed without changing the internal causes. Many of them refusing to believe in Soul, seek the cause of diseases in its external expression, where it does not exist.
Diseases are the necessary results of disobedience to the laws of nature, they are the consequences of "sins" that cannot be forgiven, but must be atoned for by acting again in accordance with natural laws. In vain will the ignorant ask the guardians of health for their assistance to cheat nature out of its dues. Physicians may restore health by restoring the supremacy of the law, but as long as they know only an infinitesimal part of the law they can only cure an infinitesimal part of the diseases afflicting mankind; they sometimes suppress the manifestation of one disease by calling another and more serious one into existence. In vain will such investigators seek for the cause for epidemic diseases in places where such diseases may be propagated, but where they are not created. The soul of the world in which such causes reside cannot be seen with microscopes, it can only be recognised by a man capable of perceiving the truth.
The Constitution of Man
A true conception of the nature of man will lead to the comprehension of the fact that man, being as a microcosm the true image, reflection and representative of the macrocosm of nature; Nature has the same organisation as Man, although not the same external form. Having the same organs and functions, and being ruled by the same laws, the organism of Nature is liable to experience diseases similar to those experienced by the organism of man. Nature has her dropsical swellings, her nervous tremblings, her paralytic affections by which civilised countries turn into deserts, her inflammatory affections, her rheumatic contractions, spells of heat and cold, eruptions and earthquakes. If our physicians knew the nature of man, they would also know the organisation of Nature as a whole, and understand more about the origin of epidemic diseases, of which they now know merely the external effects.
What does modern medical science know of the constitution of man, whose life and safety is made to depend on that knowledge? It knows the form of the body, the arrangement of muscles, and bones, and organs, and it calls these constituent parts by names which it invented. Having no supersensual perceptions it does not know the soul of man, but believes that his body is the essential man.
If its eyes were open it would see that this visible body is only the material kernal of the "immaterial," but nevertheless substantial real man, whose soul-essence radiates far into space, and whose spirit is without limits, and that the spirit is not merely within the body, but rather the body within the sphere of the spirit. They would know that in the life-principle resides sensation, perception, consciousness, and all the causes that produce the growth of the form. Labouring under their fatal mistake they attempt to cure that which is not sick, while the real patient is unknown to them.
Under such circumstances it is not surprising that the most enlightened physicians of our time have expressed the opinion that our present system of medicine is rather a curse than a blessing to mankind, and that our drugs and medicines on the whole do vastly more harm than good, because they are continually misapplied. This is an assertion which has often been made by their own most prominent leaders.
The ideal physician of the future is he who knows the true constitution of man, and who is not led by illusive external appearances, but able to examine into the hidden causes of all external effects. To him the acquisitions of external science are not the guides but only the assistants, his guide will be his own knowledge and not a theory, and his knowledge will endow him with power.*
* Such a physician was Theophrastus Paracelsus, the great reformer of medicine in the sixteenth century.
If our medical students were to apply a part of the time which they employ for amusements for the development of a love for the truth, they would become able to know certain processes within the organism of man, which are at present to them a mere matter of speculation, and which are not discoverable by any physical means.
But even the modern physician acts wiser than he knows. He may say that he does not believe in faith, and yet it is only faith that upholds him and by which he exists, because if men had no confidence in him they would not employ him, and if his patients did not believe that he could benefit them they would not follow his directions. A physician without spiritual knowledge, having no confidence in himself, and in whom no one else has any faith, is perfectly useless as a physician, no matter how much he may have learned in schools.
There is nothing whatever that can be accomplished without the power of Faith, and there is no faith possible without spiritual knowledge. We can only accomplish that of which we are confident that we can accomplish it, and we can only be truly confident if we know by experience that we have the power to do it.
What does popular science know about Mind? According to the usual definition, Mind is "the intellectual power in man," and as "man" means a visible body, this definition makes of mind something confined within that visible form. But if this conception were true, there could be no transmission of will to a distance and no transmission of thought.
No sound can be heard in a space from which the air has been exhausted, and no thought can travel from one individual to another without a corresponding "ether" existing between them; but the possibility of thought-transference is now an universally admitted fact; its truth has been perceived long ago by children who make practical use of it in some of their games, and it has now been admitted as a fact even by the most sceptical and superficial observers.* Moreover, any one who doubts its possibility has it in his power to convince himself by either impressing his thoughts silently upon others, or by letting others impress their thoughts upon him.
* "Report of the Society for Psychical Research." London, 1884.
How infinitely more grand and how much more reasonable is the conception of ancient philosophical science, according to whose doctrines everything that exists is an expression of the thoughts of the Universal Mind, pervading all space! This conception makes Mind a power in the realm of infinity, acting through living and intelligent instruments, and of Man, an intellectual power, an expression of the Universal Mind, able to receive, reflect, and modify the thoughts of the latter, like a diamond that becomes self-luminous through the influence of the Sun.
There is no reason why we should delude ourselves with a belief that an intelligent mind can exist only in a form which is visible and tangible to the external senses of man. There may be, for all we know, untold millions of intelligent or semi-intelligent beings in the universe, whose forms are constituted differently from ours, living on another plane of existence than ours, and who are therefore invisible to our physical senses, but may be perceived by the superior power of perception of the inner man. Nor is their existence a matter of mere speculation, for they have been perceived by those who have the power of interior perception.
All we know of external objects is the images which they produce in the sphere of our mind. Astral or spiritual beings produce no reflection upon the retina, but their presence may be known when they enter the mental sphere of the observer and they may be perceived with the eye of the soul.
The ideal scientist of the future having attained the power of inner perception, will recognise this truth.
If we believe that the object of life is simply to render our material Self satisfied and to keep it in comfort, and that material comfort confers the highest state of possible happiness, we mistake the low for the high and an illusion for the truth. Our material mode of life is a consequence of the material constitution of our bodies. We are "worms of earth" because we cling with all our desires and aspirations to earth.
If we can enter upon a path of evolution, by which we become less material and more ethereal, a very different order of civilisation would be established. Things which now appear indispensable and necessary would cease to be useful; if we could transfer our consciousness with the velocity of thought from one part of the globe to another, the present mode of communication and transportation would be no longer required. The deeper we sink into matter, the more material means for comfort will be needed; but the essential inner man is not material -- in the usual acceptation of this term -- and independent of the restrictions of matter.
What are the real necessities of life? The answer to this question depends entirely on what we imagine to be necessary. Railways, steamers, electric lights, &c., are now a necessity to us, and yet millions of people have lived long and happy knowing nothing about them. To one man a dozen of palaces may appear to be an indispensable necessity, to another a carriage, another a pipe, or a bottle of whisky.
But all such necessities are only such as man himself has created. They make the state in which he now is agreeable to him, and tempt him to remain in that state and to desire for nothing higher. They may even hinder his development instead of advancing it. If we would rise into a higher state, in which we would no longer require such things, they would cease to be a necessity, and even become undesirable and useless; but it is the craving and the wasting of thought for the augmentation of the pleasures of the lower life which prevent man to enter the higher one.
The Great Arcanum
To raise the evanescent man to a state of perfection enjoyed by the permanent ideal man is the great Arcanum, that cannot be learned in books. It is the great secret, that may be understood by a child, but will for ever be incomprehensible to him who, living entirely in the realm of his dreams, has no power to grasp it.
The attainment of a higher consciousness is the Magnum opus, the great work, of which the Alchemists said that thousands of years may be required to perform it, but that it may also be accomplished in a moment, even by a woman while engaged in spinning. They looked upon the human mind as being a great alembic,* in which the contending forces of the emotions may be purified by the heat of holy aspirations and by a supreme love of truth. They gave instructions how the soul of mortal man may be sublimated and purified from earthly attractions, and its immortal parts be made living and free.
The purified elements were made to ascend to the supreme source of law, and descended again in showers of snowy whiteness, visible to all, because they rendered every act of life holy and pure. They taught how the base metals -- meaning the animal energies in man -- could be transformed into the pure gold of true spirituality, and how, by attaining spiritual knowledge and spiritual life, souls could have their youth and innocence restored and be rendered immortal.
Their truths shared the fate of other truths; they were misunderstood and rejected by the ignorant, who continually clamour for truth and reject it when it is offered, and ridiculed by fools. Theology and Masonry have -- each in its own manner -- continued the teachings of the Alchemists, and fortunate is the Mason or the priest who spiritually understands that which he teaches. But of such true disciples there are only few. The systems in which the old truths have been embodied are still in existence, but the cold hands of Sophistry and Materialism have been laid upon the outward forms, and from the interior the spirit has fled. Doctors and clergymen see only the outward form, and not the hidden mystery that called these forms into existence. The key to the inner sanctuary has been lost by those that were entrusted with its keeping, and the true password has not been rediscovered by the followers of Hiram Abiff. The riddle of the Egyptian Sphinx still waits for a solution, and will be revealed to none unless he becomes strong enough to discover it himself.
But the true Word still lives. The light of truth still shines deep into the interior world of man, and sends its divine influence down into the valleys, and wherever the doors and windows are open to receive it, there will it dispel the darkness, rendering men and women conscious of their own godlike attributes and guiding them on the road to perfection, until, when all their struggles have ceased and the law has been restored, they will find permanent happiness in the realisation of the highest universal ideal, their own divine self.