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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
Self-adjustment
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
Introductory
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Mythology
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Pragmatic
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
Thales
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



Self-adjustment








So, in a measure, you have found yourself: have retreated behind
all that flowing appearance, that busy, unstable consciousness
with its moods and obsessions, its feverish alternations of interest
and apathy, its conflicts and irrational impulses, which even the
psychologists mistake for You. Thanks to this recollective act,
you have discovered in your inmost sanctuary a being not wholly
practical, who refuses to be satisfied by your busy life of
correspondences with the world of normal men, and hungers for
communion with a spiritual universe. And this thing so foreign to
your surface consciousness, yet familiar to it and continuous with
it, you recognise as the true Self whose existence you always
took for granted, but whom you have only known hitherto in its
scattered manifestations. "That art thou."

This climb up the mountain of self-knowledge, said the Victorine
mystics, is the necessary prelude to all illumination. Only at its
summit do we discover, as Dante did, the beginning of the
pathway to Reality. It is a lonely and an arduous excursion, a
sufficient test of courage and sincerity: for most men prefer to
dwell in comfortable ignorance upon the lower slopes, and there
to make of their more obvious characteristics a drapery which
shall veil the naked truth. True and complete self-knowledge,
indeed, is the privilege of the strongest alone. Few can bear to
contemplate themselves face to face; for the vision is strange and
terrible, and brings awe and contrition in its wake. The life of the
seer is changed by it for ever. He is converted, in the deepest and
most drastic sense; is forced to take up a new attitude towards
himself and all other things. Likely enough, if you really knew
yourself--saw your own dim character, perpetually at the mercy
of its environment; your true motives, stripped for inspection
and measured against eternal values; your unacknowledged
self-indulgences; your irrational loves and hates--you would be
compelled to remodel your whole existence, and become for the
first time a practical man.

But you have done what you can in this direction; have at last
discovered your own deeper being, your eternal spark, the agent
of all your contacts with Reality. You have often read about it.
Now you have met it; know for a fact that it is there. What next?
What changes, what readjustments will this self-revelation
involve for you?

You will have noticed, as with practice your familiarity with the
state of Recollection has increased, that the kind of consciousness
which it brings with it, the sort of attitude which it demands of
you, conflict sharply with the consciousness and the attitude
which you have found so appropriate to your ordinary life in the
past. They make this old attitude appear childish, unworthy, at
last absurd. By this first deliberate effort to attend to Reality you
are at once brought face to face with that dreadful revelation of
disharmony, unrealness, and interior muddle which the blunt
moralists call "conviction of sin." Never again need those
moralists point out to you the inherent silliness of your earnest
pursuit of impermanent things: your solemn concentration upon
the game of getting on. None the less, this attitude persists. Again
and again you swing back to it. Something more than realisation
is needed if you are to adjust yourself to your new vision of the
world. This game which you have played so long has formed and
conditioned you, developing certain qualities and perceptions,
leaving the rest in abeyance: so that now, suddenly asked to play
another, which demands fresh movements, alertness of a different
sort, your mental muscles are intractable, your attention refuses
to respond. Nothing less will serve you here than that drastic
remodelling of character which the mystics call "Purgation," the
second stage in the training of the human consciousness for
participation in Reality.

It is not merely that your intellect has assimilated, united with a
superficial and unreal view of the world. Far worse: your will,
your desire, the sum total of your energy, has been turned the
wrong way, harnessed to the wrong machine. You have become
accustomed to the idea that you want, or ought to want, certain
valueless things, certain specific positions. For years your
treasure has been in the Stock Exchange, or the House of
Commons, or the Salon, or the reviews that "really count" (if they
still exist), or the drawing-rooms of Mayfair; and thither your
heart perpetually tends to stray. Habit has you in its chains. You
are not free. The awakening, then, of your deeper self, which
knows not habit and desires nothing but free correspondence with
the Real, awakens you at once to the fact of a disharmony
between the simple but inexorable longings and instincts of the
buried spirit, now beginning to assert themselves in your hours of
meditation--pushing out, as it were, towards the light--and the
various changeful, but insistent longings and instincts of the
surface-self. Between these two no peace is possible: they
conflict at every turn. It becomes apparent to you that the
declaration of Plotinus, accepted or repeated by all the mystics,
concerning a "higher" and a "lower" life, and the cleavage that
exists between them, has a certain justification even in the
experience of the ordinary man.

That great thinker and ecstatic said, that all human personality
was thus two-fold: thus capable of correspondence with two
orders of existence. The "higher life" was always tending toward?
union with Reality; towards the gathering of it self up into One.
The "lower life," framed for correspondence with the outward
world of multiplicity, was always tending to fall downwards, and
fritter the powers of the self among external things. This is but a
restatement, in terms of practical existence, of the fact which
Recollection brought home to us: that the human self is
transitional, neither angel nor animal, capable of living towards
either Eternity or Time. But it is one thing to frame beautiful
theories on these subjects: another when the unresolved dualism
of your own personality (though you may not give it this
high-sounding name) becomes the main fact of consciousness,
perpetually reasserts itself as a vital problem, and refuses to take
academic rank.

This state of things means the acute discomfort which ensues on
being pulled two ways at once. The uneasy swaying of attention
between two incompatible ideals, the alternating conviction that
there is something wrong, perverse, poisonous, about life as you
have always lived it, and something hopelessly ethereal about the
life which your innermost inhabitant wants to live--these
disagreeable sensations grow stronger and stronger. First one and
then the other asserts itself. You fluctuate miserably between
their attractions and their claims; and will have no peace until
these claims have been met, and the apparent opposition between
them resolved. You are sure now that there is another, more
durable and more "reasonable," life possible to the human
consciousness than that on which it usually spends itself. But it is
also clear to you that you must yourself be something more, or
other, than you are now, if you are to achieve this life, dwell in it,
and breathe its air. You have had in your brief spells of
recollection a first quick vision of that plane of being which
Augustine called "the land of peace," the "beauty old and new."
You know for evermore that it exists: that the real thing within
yourself belongs to it, might live in it, is being all the time invited
and enticed to it. You begin, in fact, to feel and know in every
fibre of your being the mystical need of "union with Reality"; and
to realise that the natural scene which you have accepted so
trustfully cannot provide the correspondences toward which you
are stretching out.

Nevertheless, it is to correspondences with this natural order that
you have given for many years your full attention, your desire,
your will. The surface-self, left for so long in undisputed
possession of the conscious field, has grown strong, and
cemented itself like a limpet to the rock of the obvious; gladly
exchanging freedom for apparent security, and building up, from
a selection amongst the more concrete elements offered it by the
rich stream of life, a defensive shell of "fixed ideas." It is useless
to speak kindly to the limpet. You must detach it by main force.
That old comfortable clinging life, protected by its hard shell
from the living waters of the sea, must now come to an end. A
conflict of some kind--a severance of old habits, old notions, old
prejudices--is here inevitable for you; and a decision as to the
form which the new adjustments must take.

Now although in a general way we may regard the practical
man's attitude to existence as a limpet-like adherence to the
unreal; yet, from another point of view, fixity of purpose and
desire is the last thing we can attribute to him. His mind is full of
little whirlpools, twists and currents, conflicting systems,
incompatible desires. One after another, he centres himself on
ambition, love, duty, friendship, social convention, politics,
religion, self-interest in one of its myriad forms; making of each a
core round which whole sections of his life are arranged. One
after another, these things either fail him or enslave him.
Sometimes they become obsessions, distorting his judgment,
narrowing his outlook, colouring his whole existence. Sometimes
they develop inconsistent characters which involve him in public
difficulties, private compromises and self-deceptions of every
kind. They split his attention, fritter his powers. This state of
affairs, which usually passes for an "active life," begins to take on
a different complexion when looked at with the simple eye of
meditation. Then we observe that the plain man's world is in a
muddle, just because he has tried to arrange its major interests
round himself as round a centre; and he is neither strong enough
nor clever enough for the job. He has made a wretched little
whirlpool in the mighty River of Becoming, interrupting--as he
imagines, in his own interest--its even flow: and within that
whirlpool are numerous petty complexes and counter-currents,
amongst which his will and attention fly to and fro in a continual
state of unrest. The man who makes a success of his life, in any
department, is he who has chosen one from amongst these claims
and interests, and devoted to it his energetic powers of heart and
will; "unifying" himself about it, and from within it resisting all
counter-claims. He has one objective, one centre; has killed out
the lesser ones, and simplified himself.

Now the artist, the discoverer, the philosopher, the lover, the
patriot--the true enthusiast for any form of life--can only achieve
the full reality to which his special art or passion gives access by
innumerable renunciations. He must kill out the smaller centres
of interest, in order that his whole will, love, and attention may
pour itself out towards, seize upon, unite with, that special
manifestation of the beauty and significance of the universe to
which he is drawn. So, too, a deliberate self-simplification, a
"purgation" of the heart and will, is demanded of those who
would develop the form of consciousness called "mystical." All
your power, all your resolution, is needed if you are to succeed in
this adventure: there must be no frittering of energy, no mixture
of motives. We hear much of the mystical temperament, the
mystical vision. The mystical character is far more important: and
its chief ingredients are courage, singleness of heart, and
self-control. It is towards the perfecting of these military virtues,
not to the production of a pious softness, that the discipline of
asceticism is largely directed; and the ascetic foundation, in one
form or another, is the only enduring foundation of a sane
contemplative life.

You cannot, until you have steadied yourself, found a poise, and
begun to resist some amongst the innumerable claims which the
world of appearance perpetually makes upon you: attention
and your desire, make much use of the new power which Recollection
has disclosed to you; and this Recollection itself, so long
as it remains merely a matter of attention and does not involve
the heart, is no better than a psychic trick. You are committed
therefore, as the fruit of your first attempts at self-knowledge,
to a deliberate--probably a difficult--rearrangement of
your character; to the stern course of self-discipline, the
voluntary acts of choice on the one hand and of rejection on the
other, which ascetic writers describe under the formidable names
of Detachment and Mortification. By Detachment they mean the
eviction of the limpet from its crevice; the refusal to anchor
yourself to material things, to regard existence from the personal
standpoint, or confuse custom with necessity. By Mortification,
they mean the resolving of the turbulent whirlpools and currents
of your own conflicting passions, interests, desires; the killing out
of all those tendencies which the peaceful vision of Recollection
would condemn, and which create the fundamental opposition
between your interior and exterior life.

What then, in the last resort, is the source of this opposition; the
true reason of your uneasiness, your unrest? The reason lies, not
in any real incompatibility between the interests of the temporal
and the eternal orders; which are but two aspects of one Fact, two
expressions of one Love. It lies solely in yourself; in your attitude
towards the world of things. You are enslaved by the verb "to
have": all your reactions to life consist in corporate or individual
demands, appetites, wants. That "love of life" of which we
sometimes speak is mostly cupboard-love. We are quick to snap
at her ankles when she locks the larder door: a proceeding which
we dignify by the name of pessimism. The mystic knows not this
attitude of demand. He tells us again and again, that "he is rid of
all his asking"; that "henceforth the heat of having shall never
scorch him more." Compare this with your normal attitude to the
world, practical man: your quiet certitude that you are well within
your rights in pushing the claims of "the I, the Me, the Mine";
your habit, if you be religious, of asking for the weather and the
government that you want, of persuading the Supernal Powers to
take a special interest in your national or personal health and
prosperity. How often in each day do you deliberately revert to an
attitude of disinterested adoration? Yet this is the only attitude in
which true communion with the universe is possible. The very
mainspring of your activity is a demand, either for a continued
possession of that which you have, or for something which as yet
you have not: wealth, honour, success, social position, love,
friendship, comfort, amusement. You feel that you have a right to
some of these things: to a certain recognition of your powers, a
certain immunity from failure or humiliation. You resent
anything which opposes you in these matters. You become
restless when you see other selves more skilful in the game of
acquisition than yourself. You hold tight against all comers your
own share of the spoils. You are rather inclined to shirk boring
responsibilities and unattractive, unremunerative toil; are greedy
of pleasure and excitement, devoted to the art of having a good
time. If you possess a social sense, you demand these things not
only for yourself but for your tribe--the domestic or racial group
to which you belong. These dispositions, so ordinary that they
almost pass unnoticed, were named by our blunt forefathers the
Seven Deadly Sins of Pride, Anger, Envy, Avarice, Sloth,
Gluttony, and Lust. Perhaps you would rather call them--as
indeed they are--the seven common forms of egotism. They
represent the natural reactions to life of the self-centred human
consciousness, enslaved by the "world of multiplicity"; and
constitute absolute barriers to its attainment of Reality. So long as
these dispositions govern character we can never see or feel
things as they are; but only as they affect ourselves, our family,
our party, our business, our church, our empire--the I, the Me, the
Mine, in its narrower or wider manifestations. Only the detached
and purified heart can view all things--the irrational cruelty of
circumstance, the tortures of war, the apparent injustice of life,
the acts and beliefs of enemy and friend--in true proportion; and
reckon with calm mind the sum of evil and good. Therefore the
mystics tell us perpetually that "selfhood must be killed" before
Reality can be attained.

"Feel sin a lump, thou wottest never what, but none other thing
than thyself," says The Cloud of Unknowing. "When the I,
the Me, and the Mine are dead, the work of the Lord is done,"
says Kabir. The substance of that wrongness of act and relation
which constitutes "sin" is the separation of the individual spirit
from the whole; the ridiculous megalomania which makes each
man the centre of his universe. Hence comes the turning inwards
and condensation of his energies and desires, till they do indeed
form a "lump"; a hard, tight core about which all the currents of
his existence swirl. This heavy weight within the heart resists
every outgoing impulse of the spirit; and tends to draw all things
inward and downward to itself, never to pour itself forth in
love, enthusiasm, sacrifice. "So long," says the Theologia
Germanica, "as a man seeketh his own will and his own highest
good, because it is his, and for his own sake, he will never find it:
for so long as he doeth this, he is not seeking his own highest
good, and how then should he find it? For so long as he doeth
this, he seeketh himself, and dreameth that he is himself the
highest good. . . . But whosoever seeketh, loveth, and pursueth
goodness, as goodness and for the sake of goodness, and maketh
that his end--for nothing but the love of goodness, not for love of
the I, Me, Mine, Self, and the like--he will find the highest good,
for he seeketh it aright, and they who seek it otherwise do err."

So it is disinterestedness, the saint's and poet's love of things for
their own sakes, the vision of the charitable heart, which is the
secret of union with Reality and the condition of all real
knowledge. This brings with it the precious quality of suppleness,
the power of responding with ease and simplicity to the great
rhythms of life; and this will only come when the ungainly
"lump" of sin is broken, and the verb "to have," which expresses
its reaction to existence, is ejected from the centre of your
consciousness. Then your attitude to life will cease to be
commercial, and become artistic. Then the guardian at the gate,
scrutinising and sorting the incoming impressions, will no longer
ask, "What use is this to me?" before admitting the angel of
beauty or significance who demands your hospitality. Then
things will cease to have power over you. You will become free.
"Son," says a Kempis, "thou oughtest diligently to attend to this;
that in every place, every action or outward occupation, thou be
inwardly free and mighty in thyself, and all things be under thee,
and thou not under them; that thou be lord and governor of thy
deeds, not servant." It is therefore by the withdrawal of your will
from its feverish attachment to things, till "they are under thee
and thou not under them," that you will gradually resolve the
opposition between the recollective and the active sides of your
personality. By diligent self-discipline, that mental attitude which
the mystics sometimes call poverty and sometimes perfect
freedom--for these are two aspects of one thing--will become
possible to you. Ascending the mountain of self-knowledge and
throwing aside your superfluous luggage as you go, you shall at
last arrive at the point which they call the summit of the spirit;
where the various forces of your character--brute energy, keen
intellect, desirous heart--long dissipated amongst a thousand little
wants and preferences, are gathered into one, and become a
strong and disciplined instrument wherewith your true self can
force a path deeper and deeper into the heart of Reality.





Next: Love And Will

Previous: Meditation And Recollection



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