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 sa
isfied 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.