Sincere students of the Science of the Soul are naturally anxious to grow in grace that they may serve so much better in the Great Work of Human Upliftment. Being humble and modest they are only too painfully aware of their shortcomings, and frequently while casting about for means to facilitate progress they ask themselves, "What hinders?" Some, particularly in bygone ages when life was lived less intensely than now, realized that the everyday life among ordinary humanity had many drawbacks. To overcome these and further their soul growth they withdrew from the community to a monastery or to the mountains where they could give themselves over to the spiritual life undisturbed.
We know, however, that that is not the way. It is too well established in the minds of most of our students that if we run away from an experience today, it will confront us again tomorrow, and that the victor's palm is earned by overcoming the world, not by running away from it. The environment in which we have been placed by the Recording Angels was our own choice when we were at the turning point of our life cycle in the Third Heaven, we then being pure spirit unblinded by the matter which now veils our vision. Hence it is undoubtedly the one that holds lessons needed by us, and we should make a serious mistake if we tried to escape from it altogether.
But we have received a mind for a definite purpose--to reason about things and conditions so that we may learn to discriminate between essentials and non-essentials, between that which is designed to hinder for the purpose of teaching us a virtue by overcoming it, and that which is an out and out hindrance, which jars our sensibilities and wrecks our nerves without any compensating spiritual gain. It will be of the greatest benefit if we can learn to differentiate for the conservation of our strength, accepting only that which we must endure for the sake of our spiritual well-being. We shall then save much energy and have much more zest in profitable directions than now. The details of that problem are different in every life; however, there are certain general principles which it will benefit us all to understand and apply to our lives, and among them is the effect of silence and sound on soul growth.
At first blush it may surprise us when the statement is made that sound and silence are very important factors in soul growth, but when we examine the matter we shall soon see that it is not a far-fetched notion. Consider first the graphic expression, "War is hell," and then call up in imagination a war scene. The sight is appalling, even more so to those who see it with the undimmed spiritual vision than to those who are limited to physical sight, for the latter can at least shut their eyes to it if they want to, but the whole horror lies heavily upon the heart of the Invisible Helper who not only hears and sees but feels in his own being the anguish and pain of all the surrounding suffering as Parsifal felt in his heart the wound of Amfortas, the stricken Grail king; in fact, without that intensely intimate feeling of oneness with the suffering there could be no healing or help given. But there is one thing which no one can escape, the terrible noise of the shells, the deafening roar of the cannon, the vicious spitting of the machine guns, the groans of the wounded, and the oaths of a certain class among the participants. We shall need no further arguement to agree that it is really a "hellish noise" and as subversive of soul growth as possible. The battle field is the last place anyone with a sane mind would choose for the purpose of soul growth, though it is not to be forgotten that much of this has been made by noble deeds of self-sacrifice there; but such results have been achieved in spite of the condition and not because of it.
On the other hand, consider a church filled with the noble strain of a Gregorian chant or a Handel oratorio upon which the prayers of the aspiring soul wing their way to the Author of our Being. That music may surely be termed "heavenly" and the church designated as offering an ideal condition for soul growth, but if we stayed there permanently to the neglect of our duties we should be failures in spite of the ideal condition.
There remains, therefore, only one safe method for us, namely, to stay in the din of the battle field of the world, endeavoring to wrest from even the most unpromising conditions the material of soul growth by unselfish service, and at the same time to build within our own inner selves a sanctuary filled with that silent music which sounds ever in the serving soul as a source of upliftment above all the vicissitudes of earthly existence. Having that "living church" within, being in fact under that condition "living temples," we may turn at any moment when our attention is not legitimately required by temporal affairs to that spiritual house not made with hands and lave in its harmony. We may do that many times a day and thus restore continually the harmony that has been disturbed by the discords of terrestrial intercourse.
How then shall we build that temple and fill it with the heavenly music we so much desire? What will help and what will hinder? are the questions which call for a practical solution, and we shall try to make the answer as plain and practical as possible, for this is a very vital matter. The little things are particularly important, for the neophyte needs to take even the slightest things into account. If we light a match in a strong wind it is extinguished ere it has gained a fair start, but if the little flame is laid on a brush heap and given a chance to grow in comparative calm, a rising wind will fan the flame instead of extinguishing it. Adepts or Great Souls may remain serene under conditions which would upset the ordinary aspirant, hence he should use discrimination and not expose himself unnecessarily to conditions subversive of soul growth; what he needs more than anything is poise, and nothing is more inimical to that condition than noise.
It is undeniable that our communities are "Bedlams," and that we have a legitimate right to escape some noises if possible, such as the screeching made by street cars rounding a curve. We do not need to live on such a corner to the detriment of our nerves or endeavors at concentration, but if we have a sick, crying child that requires our attention day and night, it does not matter how if affects our nerves, we have no right in the sight of God or man to run away or neglect it in order to concentrate. These things are perfectly obvious and produce instant assent, but the things that help or hinder most are, as said, the things that are so small that they escape our attention entirely. When we now start to enumerate them, they may provoke a smile of incredulity, but if they are pondered upon and practiced they will soon win assent, for judged by the formula that "by their fruits ye shall know them," they will show results and vindicate our assertion that "Silence is one of the greatest helps in soul growth," and should therefore be cultivated by the aspirant in his home, his personal demeanor, his walk, his habits, and paradoxical as it seems, even his speech.
It is a proof of the benefit of religion that it makes people happy, but the greatest happiness is usually too deep for outward expression. It fills our whole being so full that it is almost awesome, and a boisterous manner never goes together with that true happiness for it is the sign of superficiality. The loud voice, the coarse laugh, the noisy manner, the hard heels that sound like sledge hammers, the slamming of doors, and the rattling of dishes are the signatures of the unregenerate, for they love noise, the more the merrier, as it stirs their desire bodies. For their purpose church music is anathema; a blaring brass band is preferable to any other form of entertainment, and the wilder the dance, the better. But it is otherwise, or should be, with the aspirant to the higher life.
When the infant Jesus was sought by Herod, with murderous intent, his only safety lay in flight, and by that expedient were preserved his life and power to grow and fulfill his mission. Similarly, when the Christ is born within the aspirant he can best preserve this spiritual life by fleeing from the environment of the unregenerate where these hindering things are practiced, and seek a place among others of kindred ambitions provided he is free to do so; but if placed in a position of responsibility to a family; it is his duty to strive to alter conditions by precept and example, particularly by example, so that in time that refined, subdued atmosphere which breathes harmony and strength may reign over the whole house. It is not essential to the happiness of children that they be allowed to shout at the top of their voices or to race pell-mell through the house, slamming doors and wrecking furniture in their mad race; it is indeed decidedly detrimental, for it teaches them to disregard the feelings of others in self-gratification. They will benefit more than mother by being shod with rubber heels and taught to reserve their romps for outdoors and to play quietly in the house, closing doors easily, and speaking in a moderate tone of voice such as mother uses.
In childhood we begin to wreck the nerves that bother us in later years, so if we teach our children the lessons above indicated, we may save them much trouble in life as well as further our own soul growth now. It may take years to reform a household of these seemingly unimportant faults and secure an atmosphere conducive to soul growth, especially if the children have grown to adult age and resent reforms of that nature, but it is well worth while. We can and must at least cultivate the virtue of silence in ourselves, or our own soul growth will be very small. Perhaps if we look at the matter from its occult point of view in connection with that important vehicle, the vital body, the point of this necessity will be more clear.
We know that the vital body is ever storing up power in the physical body which is to be used in this "School of Experience," and that during the day the desire body is constantly dissipating this energy in actions which constitute experience that is eventually transmuted to soul growth. So far so good, but the desire body has the tendency to run amuck if not held in with a tight reign. It revels in unrestrained motion, the wilder the better, and if unbridled makes the body whistle, sing, jump, dance, and do all the other unnecessary and undignified things which are so detrimental to soul growth. While under such a spell of inharmony and discord the person is dead to the spiritual opportunities in the physical world, and at night when he leaves his body the process of restoration of that vehicle consumes so much time that very little, if any, time is left for work, even if the person has the inclination to think seriously of doing such work.
Therefore, we ought by all means to flee from noises which we are not obliged to hear, and cultivate personally the quiet yet kindly demeanor, the modulated voice, the silent walk, the unobtrusive presence, and all the other virtues which make for harmony, for then the restorative process is quickly accomplished and we are free the major part of the night to work in the invisible worlds to gain more soul growth. Let us in this attempt at improvement remember to be undaunted by occasional failures, remembering Paul's admonition to continue in well-doing with patient persistence.
Occasionally we get letters from students voicing their regret that they are alone in the study of the Rosicrucian Philosophy, that their husbands, wives, children or other relatives are unsympathetic or even antagonistic to the teachings, despite all efforts of the said student to interest favorably these friends and thus obtain companionship in their studies, or at least freedom to follow their bent. This friction causes them a certain amount of unhappiness according to their various temperments, and we are asked by these students to advise them how to overcome the antagonism and convert their relatives. This we have done by personal letters and have been privileged to help conditions in not a few homes when our advice has been followed; but we know that frequently those who suffer most acutely are silent, and we have therefore decided to devote a little time to a discussion of the subject.
It is truly said, very truly, that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," and this applies with the same force to the Rosicrucian teachings as to any other subject. Therefore, the very first step is to find out if you have enough knowledge to be on the safe side. So let me ask the question: What is the Rosicrucian teaching which you are so anxious to have others share and to which they object? Is it the twin laws of "Causation" and "Rebirth?" They are excellent for explaining a great many problems of life, and they are a great comfort when the grim reaper appears and robs our home of some one near and dear. But then you must remember that there are many who do not feel the need of any explanation whatever. They are constitutionally as unfit to apply it as a deaf mute is to use the telephone. It is true that we work to better advantage when conscious of the law and its purpose, but let us take comfort from the fact that these laws work for good to all whether they know it or not, and therefore this knowledge is not essential. They will suffer no great loss because they do not embrace this doctrine, and they may escape the danger incident to the possession of "a little knowledge."
In India where these truths are known and believed by millions, people make little effort at material progress because they know that they have endless time, and what they do not accomplish in this life may wait till the next or a later life. Many Westerners who have embraced the doctrine of rebirth have ceased to be useful members of their community by adopting a life of indolence, thereby bringing reproach on these so-called higher teachings. If your friends will have none of this teaching, leave them alone. Making converts is by no means the essential point of the Rosicrucian teaching. The Guardian of the Gate will not examine them as to knowledge, and he may admit some who are entirely ignorant of this matter and shut the door in the face of others who have devoted their lives to studying, lecturing on, and teaching these laws.
Then if the doctrines of "Causation" and "Rebirth" are unessential, what about the complex constitution of Man? Surely it is essential to know that we are not merely this visible body, but have a vital body to charge it with energy, a desire body to spend this force, a mind to guide our exertions in channels of reason, and that we are virgin spirits enmeshed in a threefold veil as egos. Is it not essential to know that the physical body is the material counterpart of the Divine Spirit, that the vital body is a replica of the Life Spirit, and that the desire body is the shadow of the Human Spirit, the mind forming the link between the threefold spirit and the threefold body?
No, it is not essential to know these things. Properly used, this knowledge is an advantage, but it may also be a very decided disadvantage in the case of those who have only "a little knowledge" in that direction. There are many such who are always meditating on "the higher self" while entirely forgetful of the many "lower selves" groaning in misery at their very doors. There are many who dream day and night of the time when they will take their daily soul flights as "invisible helpers" and ease the sufferings of the sick and sorrowful, yet would not spend a five cent car fare and an hour's time to bring a poor, friendless soul in a city hospital a flower and a word of cheer. Again I say that the Guardian of the Gate is more likely to admit him who did what he could than him who dreamed much and did nothing to help his suffering fellow man.
If you could get people to study the Rosicrucian teachings about death and the life after, you would feel it important that they should also know about the silver cord remaining unbroken for a period approximately three and one-half days after the spirit has left the body, and that it must be left undisturbed while the panorama of its past life is being etched into the desire body to serve as arbiter of its life in the invisible world. You would like them to know all about the spirit's life in purgatory--how the evil acts of its life react upon it as pain to create conscience and keep it from repeating in a later life the acts that cause the suffering. You would have them know how the good acts of life are transmuted into virtues usable in later lives as set forth in our philosophy.
You have no doubt been surprised at the assertion that a knowledge of the great twin laws in unessential. Probably the next assertion that it is immaterial whether others learn about the constitution of man as we know it may have scandalized you; and you will undoubtedly feel shocked to have it stated that the Rosicrucian teachings concerning death and the passing of the spirit into the unseen worlds are also comparatively unnecessary to the purpose we aim to accomplish. It really does not matter whether your relatives understand or believe in these teachings. So far as your own passing is concerned, an earnest request that they leave your body quiet and undisturbed for the proper period will probably be carried out to the letter, for people have an almost superstitious regard for such "last requests"; and if any of your friends pass over, you are there with your knowledge and can do the right thing for them. So never mind if they refuse to take up that part of the Rosicrucian teaching.
But the student may say, "If a knowledge of the before mentioned subjects which seems of such practical value is immaterial to advancement, then it follows that study of the Periods, Revolutions, World Globes, etc., is entirely so. That disposes of everything taught in the 'Cosmo' and there is nothing left of the Rosicrucian teaching which we have embraced and to which we have pinned our faith!
Is nothing left? Yes, indeed, all is left, for those things mentioned are only the husks which you must remove to get at the meat in the nut, the kernel of it all. You have read the "Cosmo" many times perhaps. Maybe you have studied it and feel proud of your knowledge of the world mystery, but have you ever read the mystery hidden in every line? That is the great and essential teaching, the one teaching to which your friends will respond, if you can find it and give it to them. The "Cosmo" preaches on every page the Gospel of Service.
For our sakes Deity manifested the universe. The great creative Hierarchies have all been and some of them still are our servants. The luminous star angels, whose fiery bodies we see whirling through space, have worked with us for ages, and in due time Christ came to bring us the spiritual impetus needed at that time. It is also significant in the extreme that in the parable of the last judgment Christ does not say, "Well done, thou great and erudite philosopher, who knoweth the Bible, the Kabala, the "Cosmo" and all the other mysterious literature which reveals the intricate workings of nature" but He says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: * * * enter thou into the joy of thy lord. * * * * For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; * * * ." Not one single word about knowledge; the whole emphasis was laid upon faithfulness and service.
There is a deep occult reason for this: service builds the soul body, the glorious wedding garment without which no man can enter into the kingdom of the heavens, occultly termed "The New Galilee," and it does not matter whether we are aware of what is going on, so long as we accomplish the work. Moreover, as the luminous soul body grows in and around a person, this light will teach him or her about the Mysteries without the need of books, and one who is thus God-taught knows more than all the books in the world contain. In due time the inner vision will be opened and the way to the Temple shown. If you want to teach your friends, no matter how skeptical they may be, they will believe you if you preach the gospel of service.
But you must preach by practice. You must become a servant of men yourself if you would have them believe in you. If you want them to follow, you must lead, or they will have the right to question your sincerity. Remember, "ye are a city upon a hill," and when you make professions they have a right to judge you by your fruits; therefore say little, serve much.
There are many who love to discuss the harmless, peaceful life at dinner, oblivious of the fact that the red roast on the table and the cigar in the mouth dull the effect. There are others who make a god of the stomach and would rather study dietetics than the Bible; they are always ready to buttonhole their friends and discourse upon the latest food fad. I knew one man who was at the head of an esoteric group. His wife was antagonistic to occultism and the meatless diet. He forced her to cook his vegetables at home, and told her that if she ever dared to bring meat into his kitchen or contaminate his dishes with it, he would pitch her and the dishes into the street, adding that if she must make a pig of herself she could go and get flesh food in a restaurant.
Is it to be wondered at that she judged the religion by the man and would have none of it? Surely he was to blame, being "his brother's keeper," and though this is an extreme case, it makes the lesson more obvious. It is to the everlasting praise of Mahomet that his wife became his first disciple, and it speaks volumes for his kindness and consideration in the home. His is an example we should all do well to follow if we would win our friends to the higher life, for though all religious systems differ outwardly the kernel of all is love.
Not infrequently the remark is made by people who have no sympathy with our aspirations to live the higher life, that it unfits people for the world's work. Unfortunately it cannot be denied that there is seeming justification for the assertion, though in reality the very first requisite for living the higher life involves an obligation to comport oneself irreproachably in dealing with material matters, for unless we are faithful in the little things, how can we expect to be trusted with greater responsibilities? It has therefore been deemed expedient to devote a lesson to the discussion of some of the things which act as stumbling blocks in the life of aspirants.
In the Bible story where the king sent out his servants with invitations to the feast he had prepared, we are told that his invitations were refused on various grounds. Each one had material cares, buying, selling, marrying, therefore they could not attend to the spiritual things, and such people we may say represent the greater number of humanity today, who are too engrossed in the cares of the world to devote even a thought to aspiration in the higher direction. But there are others who become so enthusiastic upon the first taste of the higher teachings that they are ready to give up all work in the world, repudiate every obligation, and devote their time to what they are pleased to call "helping humanity." They will readily admit that it takes time to learn how to be a watchmaker, a shoemaker, an engineer, or a musician, and they would not for a moment dream of giving up their present material business to establish themselves as shoemaker, watchmaker, or music teacher just because they felt enthusiastic about or inclined to take up such work. They would know that lacking the proper preparation and training they would be doomed to failure, and yet they think that just because they have become enthusiastic over the higher teachings they are at once fitted to step out of the world's work and devote their time to service similar, even though in a lesser degree, to that rendered by the Christ in His ministry.
One writes to Headquarters: "I have given up flesh eating, and I long to live the ascetic life, far from the world's noise that jars upon me. I want to give my life for humanity." Another says: "I want to live the spiritual life, but I have a wife who needs my care and support. Do you think I would be justified in leaving her to help my fellow men?" Still another says: " I am in a business which is unspiritual; every day I must do things which are against my higher nature, but I have a daughter dependent upon me for an education. What shall I do: continue or give up?" There are of course many other problems presented to us, but these serve as fair samples, for they represent a class which is ready to give up the world at the slightest word of encouragement, and rush off to the hills in the expectation of sprouting wings immediately. If the people who are in that class have any ties, they break them without a scruple or a moment's consideration.
Another class still feels some obligation, but could be easily persuaded to repudiate it in order that they might live what they call " the spiritual life." It cannot be denied that when people get into this state of mind, when they lose their ambition to work in the world, when they become shiftless and neglectful of their duties, they merit the reproach of the community.
But as already said such conduct is based upon a misunderstanding of the higher teachings and is not at all sanctioned by the Bible or the Elder Brothers.
It is a step in the right direction when a person ceases to feed on flesh because he feels compassion for the suffering of the animals. There are many people who abstain from flesh foods for health's sake, but theirs being a selfish motive, the sacrifice carries with it no merit. Where the aspirant to the higher life is prompted to abstain from flesh food because he realizes that the refining influence of a meatless diet upon the body will aid him in his quest by making the body more sensitive to spiritual influences, there is no real merit either. Truly, the person who abstains from flesh foods for the sake of health will be much benefited, and the person who abstains to make his body more sensitive will also get his reward in that respect, but from the spiritual point of view neither will be very much better. On the other hand, whoever abstains from flesh food because he realizes that God's life is immanent in every animal just as in himself, that in the final analysis God feels all suffering felt by the animal, that it is a divine law, "Thou shalt not kill," and that he must abstain out of compassion, this person is not only benefited in health and by making his body more sensitive to spiritual impacts, but because of the motive which prompts him he reaps a reward in soul growth immeasurably more precious than any other consideration. Therefore we would say by all means abstain from flesh food, but be sure to do so prompted by the right spiritual motive or it will not affect your spiritual interests one iota.
When the enthusiast says that he wants to get away from the world and the noise that jars upon him to live the ascetic life, it is truly a strange idea of service. The reason why we are here in this world is that we may gather experience, which is then transmuted into soul growth. If a diamond in the rough were laid away in a drawer for years and years, it would be no different than before, but when it is placed against the gridstone by the lapidary the harsh grinding process removes the last atom of the rough coating and brings out the beautiful, luminous gem. Every one of us is a diamond in the rough, and God, the Great Lapidary, uses the world as a grindstone which rubs off the rough and ugly coating, allowing our spiritual selves to shine forth and become luminous. The Christ was a living example of this. He did not go away from the centers of civilization, but moved constantly among the suffering and the poor, teaching, healing, and helping until by the glorious service rendered, His body was made luminous on the Mount of Transfiguration, and He who had trodden the Way exhorted His followers to be "in the world but not of it." That is the great lesson that every aspirant has to learn.
It is one thing to go out in the mountains where there is no one to contradict or to jar upon our sensibilities and keep our poise there; it is another thing entirely to maintain our spiritual aspirations and keep our balance in the world where everything jars upon us; but when we stay on this path, we gain a self-control which is unattainable in any other manner.
However, though we are careful to prepare our food well and to abstain from flesh eating or any other contaminating outward influence, though we want to get away to the mountains to escape the sordid things of city life, and we want to rid ourselves of every outward thing that may prove a stumbling block to our progress, still what about the things that come from within, the thoughts we have in our minds and our mental food? It will avail us not one iota of good if we could feed our bodies upon nectar and ambrosia, the ethereal food of the gods, when the mind is a charnel house, a habitat of low thoughts, for then we are only as whited sepulchres, beautiful to behold from without but inwardly full of a nauseating stench; and this mental delinquency can be maintained just as easily and perhaps it is even more apt to be maintained in the solitude of the mountains or in a so-called spiritual retreat than in a city where we are busy with the work of our vocation. It is indeed a true saying that "an idle brain is the devil's workshop," and the safest way to attain to interior purity and cleanliness is to keep the mind busy all the time, guiding our desires, feelings, and emotions toward the practical problems of life, and working, each one in his own immediate environment, to find the poor and the needy that he may give them whatever help their cases require and merit. That class which has not ties of its own may profitably make ties of love and friendship with those who are loveless and friendless.
Or if it is the care of a relative--wife, daughter, husband, or anyone else that claims us, let us remember the words of Christ when He said, "Who are my mother and my brother?" and answered the question by saying, "Those who do the will of my Father." This saying has been misconstrued by some to mean that Christ repudiated His physical relationships for the spiritual, but it is only necessary to remember that in the last moments of His life on earth He called to His mother, giving him to her as a son and charging the disciple to care for His parent. Love is the unifying force in life, and according to the higher teachings we are required to love our kin, but also to extend our love natures so that they may also include everyone else. It is good that we love our own mother and father, but we should also learn to love other people's mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, for universal brotherhood can never become a fact so long as our love is confined only to the family. It must be made all inclusive.
There was one among the disciples of Christ whom He loved especially, and following His example we also may bestow a particular affection upon certain ones, though we ought to love everyone and do good even to them that despitefully use us. These are high ideals and difficult of accomplishment at our present stage of development, but as the mariner steers his ship by a guiding star and reaches his desired haven though never the star itself, so also by setting our ideals high we shall live nobler and better lives than if we do not aspire, and in time and through many births we shall eventually attain, because the inherent divinity in ourselves makes it imperative.
Finally then, to sum up, it does not really matter where we are placed in life, whether in a high station or a low. Present environment with its opportunities and limitations is such as suits our individual requirements as determined by our self-made destinies in previous existences. Therefore it holds for us the lesson we must learn in order to progress properly. If we have a wife, a daughter, or other family relations to hold us to that environment, they must be considered as part of what we have to reckon with, and by doing our duty to them we learn the required lesson. If they are antagonistic to our belief, if they have no sympathy with our aspirations, if we have on their account to stay in a business and do things which we are not pleased with, it is because we must learn something from these things, and the proper way for the earnest aspirant is to look conditions squarely in the face with a view to finding out just what it is that is needed. This may not be an easy matter. It may take weeks, months, or years to solve the problem, but so long as the aspirant applies himself prayerfully to the task, he may be sure that the light will shine some day, and then he will see what is required and why these conditions were imposed upon him. Then having learned the lesson or found out it purpose, he will if he has the right spirit prayerfully bear the burden, for he will know that he is upon the right road and that it is an absolute certainty that as soon as the lesson of that environment has been learned a new way will be opened up showing him the next step upon the path of progress. Thus the "stumbling blocks" will have been turned into "stepping stones," which would never have happened if he had run away from them. In this connection we would quote the beautiful poem.