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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
The First Form Of Contemplation
The Mystical Life
The Preparation Of The Mystic
The Second Form Of Contemplation
The Third Form Of Contemplation
The World Of Reality
What Is Mysticism?
Anaximenes And The Air
Animism, Ancient And Modern
Brooks And Streams
Development And Discipline Of Intuition
Earth, Mountains, And Plains
Fire And The Sun
Heracleitus And The Cosmic Fire
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
The Beautiful And The Ugly
The Charge Of Anthropomorphism
The Expanse Of Heaven--colour
The Immanent Idea
The Moon--a Special Problem
The Ocean
The Waters Under The Earth
Will And Consciousness In Nature
Winds And Clouds

Development And Discipline Of Intuition

Although the outstanding mark of intuition is its immediacy,
that does not imply that it is independent of mental
development, of culture, or of discipline. So far all classes of
mystics would be agreed. Nevertheless a certain amount of
comment and criticism will be useful even in this regard. For
erroneous conceptions, especially in matters so largely
influenced by belief in an unconditioned Absolute, may
frequently issue in harmful practices. For proof and illustration
of the danger, need one do more than point to the terrible
excesses of asceticism still prevalent in India?

And first, of the normal development of the mystic feeling for
nature in the case of the individual mind. "The child is father of
the man," said Wordsworth. But in what sense is this true? Let
us turn to the immortal Ode, which is undoubtedly a record of
vivid personal experience.

"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."

Of course the poet was in dead earnest in writing thus; but the
two last lines give us pause. How about

"The light that never was on land or sea"?

Was not that with the poet to the end? How about the

"Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears"?

Would those have been possible for the child or growing boy? If
there had been a loss, had there not also been a very real gain as
the years rolled over his head? Such questions are forced upon
us by an examination of the records themselves. Somewhat of
the brightness and freshness of "the vision splendid" might
evaporate; but the mystic glow, the joy, the exaltation,
remained--and deepened--

"So was it when I was a child,
So is it now I am a man,
So may it be when I am old,
Or let me die"--

only that childlike fancy yields place to matured imagination.
And if this was so with Wordsworth, whose childhood was so
exceptional, still more shall we find it to be true of the average
child. The early freshness of the senses may be blunted; the
eager curiosity may be satiated; but where the nature remains
unspoilt, the sense of wonder and of joy will extend its range
and gain in fullness of content.

If we compare Kingsley's development, he was in a way a great
"boy" to the end--but a boy with a deepening sense of mystery
mellowing his character and his utterances. And thus it was that
he could say, looking back on his intercourse with the wonders
of nature: "I have long enjoyed them, never I can honestly say
alone, because when man was not with me I had companions in
every bee and flower and pebble, and never idle, because I
could not pass a swamp or a tuft of heather without finding in it
a fairy tale of which I could but decipher here and there a line or
two, and yet found them more interesting than all the books,
save one, which were ever written upon earth."

True, there is another range of experiences to be reckoned with,
such as that of Omar Khayyam--

"Yet ah that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that on the branches sang,
Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows?"

Yes, but what might Omar have been with a nobler philosophy
of life, and a more wholesome self-restraint. Blase, toper as he
was, how did he begin his Rubaiyat? Thus finely!

"Wake! For the Sun who scatter'd into flight
The stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav'n and strikes
The Sultan's turret with a Shaft of Light."

There was poetry in the man still--and that, too, of the kind
stirred by nature. And from nature likewise comes the pathos of
a closing verse--

"Yon rising Moon that looks for us again--
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden--and for _one_ in vain! "

And if in spite of all that is said, Wordsworth's haunting Ode
still asserts its sway, then let there be a still more direct appeal
to its author. One of his loveliest sonnets is that which opens--

"It is a beauteous evening, calm and free."

He tells of the holy stillness, the setting of the broad sun, the
eternal motion of the sea. He is filled with a sense of mystic
adoration. And then there is a sudden turn of thought--

"Dear child! dear girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouch'd by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine."

What is this but to regard the intuitional faculty as still largely
latent, awaiting the maturing processes of the passing years?
There is no place for further argument.

What has just been said of the child may be said of the race,
especially if there is anything in the theory that the child
recapitulates in brief the stages through which the race has
passed in its upward progress. In the dawn of civilisation the
senses would be comparatively fresh and keen, though lacking
in delicacy of aesthetic discrimination; the imagination would
be powerful and active. Hence the products, so varied and
immense, of the animistic tendency and the mytho-poeic
faculty. To these stages succeed the periods of reflective
thought and accurate research, which, while blunting to some
degree the sharp edge of sensibility, more than atone for the loss
by the widening of horizons and the deepening of mysteries. We
must be careful, however, not to press the analogy, or parallel,
too far. Important modifications of the recapitulation theory are
being urged even on its biological side; it is wise, therefore, to
be doubly on guard when dealing with the complexities of
social development. Still, it is safe to assert that, for the race as
for the individual, the modes of cosmic emotion grow fuller and
richer in "the process of the suns." Would it be easy to parallel
in any previous period of history that passage from Jefferies?--
"With all the intensity of feeling which exalted me, all the
intense communion I held with the earth, the sun, and the sky,
the stars hidden by the light, with the ocean--in no manner can
the thrilling depth of these feelings be written--with these I
prayed, as if they were the keys of an instrument."

Starting from an acknowledgment that the intuitional faculty is
capable of development, it is an easy, and indeed inevitable,
step to the conclusion that training and discipline can aid that
development. As noted above, mystics have gone, and still go,
to lengths which make the world wonder, in their efforts to
enjoy the higher forms of mystic communion with the Real. The
note of stern renunciation has persisted like a bourdon down the
ages in the lives of those who have devoted themselves to the
quest of the Absolute. In the East, and more especially in India,
the grand aim of life has come to be the release from the
appetites and the senses. The Buddhist struggles to suppress all
natural desires, and undergoes all manner of self-inflicted
tortures, that he may rise above the world of illusion, and attain
to absorption in the Universal Spirit. He sacrifices the body that
the soul may see. Similar views, though varying much in detail,
have flourished at the heart of all the great religions, and have
formed almost the sole substance of some of the smaller. Nor
has Christianity escaped. An exaggerated and uncompromising
asceticism has won for many Christian saints their honours on
earth and their assurance of special privileges in heaven.

Contrast with this sterner and narrower type, the mystic who
loves the natural world because he believes it to be, like
himself, a genuine manifestation of the ultimately Real, and to
be akin to his own inmost life. He, too, acknowledges the need
for the discipline of the body--he, too, has his _askesis_--but he
cherishes the old Greek ideal which does not call for a sacrifice
of sense as such, but for a wise abstinence from those sensual
pleasures, or over-indulgences in pleasure, which endanger the
balance of the powers of the body and the mind. The nature-
mystic, more particularly, maintains that there is no form of
human knowledge which may not be of service to him in
attaining to deeper insight and fuller experience in his
intercourse with nature. He is therefore a student, in the best
sense of the word--not a slave to mere erudition, but an alert and
eager absorber of things new and old according to his abilities
and opportunities. He tries to survey life as a whole, and to
bring his complete self, body and soul, to the realisation of its
possibilities. And he looks to nature for some of his purest joys
and most fruitful experiences. He knows that the outward shows
of heaven and earth are manifestations of a Reality which
communes with him as soul with soul.

Next: Nature Not Symbolic

Previous: Mystic Receptivity

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