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Man's Present Constitution and Method of Development – Introduction [2/21]
In our civilization the chasm that stretches between mind and heart yawns deep and wide and, as the mind flies on from discovery to discovery in the realms of science, the gulf becomes ever deeper and wider and the heart is left further and further behind. The mind loudly demands and will be satisfied with nothing less than a materially demonstrable explanation of man and his fellow-creatures that make up the phenomenal world. The heart feels instinctively that there is something greater, and it yearns for that which it feels is a higher truth than can be grasped by the mind alone. The human soul would fain soar upon ethereal pinions of intuition; would fain love in the eternal fount of spiritual light and love; but modern scientific views have shorn its wings and it sits fettered and mute, unsatisfied longings gnawing at its tendrils as the vulture of Prometheus' liver.
Is this necessary? Is there no common ground upon which head and heart may meet, each assisting the other, each by the help of the other becoming more effective in the search for universal truth, and each receiving equal satisfaction?
As surely as the preexisting light created the eye whereby the light is seen; as surely as the primordial desire for growth created the digestive and assimilative system for the attainment of that end; as surely as thought existed before the brain and built and still is building the brain for its expression; as surely as the mind is now forging ahead and wringing her secrets from nature by the very force of its audacity, just so surely will the heart find a way to burst its bonds and gratify its longings. At present it is shackled by the dominant brain. Some day it will gather strength to burst its prison bars and become a power greater than the mind.
It is equally certain that there can be no contradiction in nature, therefore the heart and the mind must be capable of uniting. To indicate this common ground is precisely the purpose of this book. To show where and how the mind, helped by the intuition of the heart, can probe more deeply into the mysteries of being than either could do alone; where the heart, by union with the mind, can be kept from going astray; where each can have full scope for action, neither doing violence to the other and where both mind and heart can be satisfied.
Only when that cooperation is attained and perfected will man attain the higher, truer understanding of himself and of the world of which he is a part; only that can give him a broad mind and a great heart.
At every birth what appears to be a new life comes among us. We see the little form as it lives and grows, becoming a factor in our lives for days, months or years. At last there comes a day when the form dies and goes to decay. The life that came, whence we know not, has passed to the invisible beyond, and in sorrow we ask ourselves, Whence came it? What was it here? and Whither has it gone?
Across every threshold the skeleton form of Death throws his fearsome shadow. Old or young, well or ill, rich or poor, all, all alike must pass out into that shadow and throughout the ages has sounded the piteous cry for a solution of the riddle of life—the riddle of death.
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So far as the vast majority of people are concerned the three great questions, Whence have we come? Why are we here? Whither are we going? remain unanswered to this day. It has unfortunately come to be the popularly accepted opinion that nothing can be definitely known about these matters of deepest interest to humanity. Nothing could be more erroneous than such an idea. Each and every one, without exception, may become capable of obtaining firsthand, definite information upon this subject; may personally investigate the state of the Human Spirit, both before birth and after death. There is no favoritism, nor are special gifts required. Each of us has inherently the faculty for knowing all of these matters; but!—Yes, there is a "but," and a "but" that must be written large. These faculties are present in all, though latent in most people. It requires persistent effort to awaken them and that seems to be a powerful deterrent. If these faculties, "awake and aware," could be had for a monetary consideration, even if the price were high, many people would pay it to gain such immense advantage over their fellowmen, but few indeed are those willing to live the life that is required to awaken them. That awakening comes only by patient, persistent effort. It cannot be bought; there is no royal road to it.
It is conceded that practice is necessary to learn to play the piano, and that it is useless to think of being a watchmaker without being willing to serve an apprenticeship. Yet when the matter of the soul, of death and the beyond, of the great causes of being, are the questions at issue, many think they know as much as anyone and have an equal right to express an opinion, though they may never have given the subject an hour's study.
As a matter of fact, no one unless qualified by study of the subject should expect serious consideration for an opinion. In legal cases, where experts are called to testify, they are first examined as to their competency. The weight of their testimony will be nil, unless they are found to be thoroughly proficient in the branch of knowledge regarding which their testimony is sought.
If, however, they are found to be qualified—by study and practice—to express an expert opinion, it is received with the utmost respect and deference; and if the testimony of one expert is corroborated by others equally proficient, the testimony of each additional man adds immensely to the weight of the previous evidence.
The irrefutable testimony of one such man easily counterbalances that of one or a dozen or a million men who know nothing of that whereof they speak, for nothing, even though multiplied by a million, will still remain nothing. This is as true of any other subject as of mathematics.
As previously said, we recognize these facts readily enough in material affairs, but when things beyond the world of sense, when the superphysical world is under discussion; when the relations of God to man, the innermost mysteries of the immortal spark of divinity, loosely termed the soul, are to be probed, then each clamors for as serious consideration of his opinions and ideas regarding spiritual matters as is given to the sage, who by a life of patient and toilsome research has acquired wisdom in these higher things.
Nay, more; many will not even content themselves with claiming equal consideration for their opinions, but will even jeer and scoff at the words of the sage, seek to impugn his testimony as fraud, and, with the supreme confidence of deepest ignorance, asseverate that as they know nothing of such matters, it is absolutely impossible that anyone else can.
The man who realizes his ignorance has taken the first step toward knowledge.
The path to firsthand knowledge is not easy. Nothing worth having ever comes without persistent effort. It cannot be too often repeated that there are no such things as special gifts of "luck." All that anyone is or has, is the result of effort. What one lacks in comparison with another is latent in himself and capable of development by proper methods.
If the reader, having grasped this idea thoroughly, should ask, what he must do to obtain this firsthand knowledge, the following story may serve to impress the idea, which is the central one in Mystic Christianity:
A young man came to a sage one day and asked, "Sire, what must I do to become wise?" The sage vouchsafed no answer. The youth after repeating his question a number of times, with a like result, at last left him, to return the next day with the same question. Again no answer was given and the youth returned on the third day, still repeating his question, "Sire what must I do to become wise?"
Finally the sage turned and went down to a nearby river. He entered the water, bidding the youth follow him. Upon arriving at a sufficient depth the sage took the young man by the shoulders and held him under the water, despite his struggles to free himself. At last, however, he released him and when the youth had regained his breath the sage questioned him:
"Son, when you were under the water what did you most desire?"
The youth answered without hesitation, "Air, air! I wanted air!"
"Would you not rather have had riches, pleasure, power or love, my son? Did you not think of any of these?" queried the sage.
"No, sire! I wanted air and thought only of air," came the instant response.
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"Then," said the sage, "To become wise you must desire wisdom with as great intensity as you just now desired air. You must struggle for it, to the exclusion of every other aim in life. It must be your one and only aspiration, by day and by night. If you seek wisdom with that fervor, my son, you will surely become wise."
That is the first and central requisite the aspirant to esoteric knowledge must possess—an unswerving desire, a burning thirst for knowledge; a zeal that allows no obstacle to conquer it; but the supreme motive for seeking this esoteric knowledge must be an ardent desire to benefit humanity, entirely disregarding self in order to work for others. Unless prompted by the motive, esoteric knowledge is dangerous.
Without possessing these qualifications—especially the latter—in some measure, any attempt to tread the arduous path of Mystic Christianity would be a hazardous undertaking. Another prerequisite to this firsthand knowledge, however, is the study of esotericism at secondhand. Certain esoteric powers are necessary for the firsthand investigation of matters connecte tions written by travelers who have been there, so may he visit the superphysical realms if he will but qualify himself therefore, or he may learn what others who have so qualified themselves report as a result of their investigations.
Christ said, "The Truth shall make you free," but Truth is not found once and forever. Truth is eternal, and the quest for Truth must also be eternal. Mystic Christianity knows of no "faith once for all delivered." There are certain basic truths which remain, but which may be looked at from many sides, each giving a different view, which complements the previous ones; therefore, so far as we can see at present, there is no such achievement possible as arriving at the ultimate truth.
Wherein these articles differ from some philosophical works the variations are caused by difference of viewpoint, and all respect is paid to the conclusions reached and the ideas set forth by other investigators. It is our earnest hope that the study of the following reading material may help to make the student's ideas fuller and more rounded than they were before.
Contemporary Mystic Christianity
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