That the way to the Immortal lies through the heart of man, is evident to him who observes that in it arise all those feelings which drive him into thought and action and constitute the sum of his life. A primary study of the office and nature of the heart then suggests itself to the wise student, for it is far easier to sink back into the eternal than to dive. The diver must needs have power to retain breath against the rush caused by diving, while to sink back gives time to get and keep breath.
As to the office of the heart of man — by heart I mean that physiological organ which is also the psychological seat of the various emotions and desires whose total we call "mind." "I have changed my mind," is really to say I have changed my desire. The Hindu philosopher calls it "Manas; the heart; the internal organ of perception which receives the external impression of the senses and transmits them through the consciousness (Ahankara) and the intellect (Buddhi) to the soul, and is the seat of the passions." (1) The seat of the astral soul being in the heart, that spark causes the systole and diastole of the heart by its own vibration in unison with the whole body of Astral Light. We can thus conceive of the heart as "pumping up" such light along the nervous system (just as it does the blood through the circulatory system) whence it is transmitted in rhythmic shocks to the brain, and reflected by the gray matter there to its mysterious inhabitant, Consciousness. If the heart's action be disturbed by passion or emotion, the rhythm of such shocks is altered. These passions and emotions have a two-fold source. They may take their rise in outside astral currents proceeding from other lives: they stream into the heart, which — if it accepts the insidious suggestions — passes them along as we have seen, and the man carries them out to pleasure himself unless he controls them by his will. Or such thoughts may proceed from the Universal Mind in original purity, and be misconceived by the elemental self of man. The heart may be either (or both) an organ of action or an organ of perception. As the former, it hurries man along the bustling highways of action and fatally commits him to a return to life. As the latter, it perceives the influx of emotions and classes each as a petition of the body which the calm judge within refuses to entertain. Hence we have the saying, "Keep a steady heart," and hence the repeated injunctions of Vedic literature. It is the object of this letter to examine into the methods of such control, but a word as to the nature of soul is first in order.
Brief statements are necessarily incomplete, but it suffices our present purpose to say that the soul has also two offices. Its higher part communicates with the Divine Spirit: the lower elemental part collects the essential experiences of earth life and transfers them to that higher self. Here is a most important link, because these selections determined the tenor of experience, its spirituality or materiality. These selections again, are governed by the heart, or feeder of the elemental self, and it has in turn the option of choice between the pure or the impure, being, however, like all other parts of man, controllable by his supreme will. As we have seen, the heart must take note of all transmissions from without, but if it remains equilibrated, neither recoiling in horror nor eagerly attracting the material, and "free from the pairs of opposites," (2) they are not recorded upon the brain with sufficient vividness to become deeds. In other words, the consciousness does not refer them to self and the man is not moved to action. The intellect has another choice: it may discover the true nature within all thoughts, and return them, thus raised to their highest power, to strengthen the heart. It thus becomes apparent that we must secure the entire co-operation of the heart in order to train the lower nature to submit to the diviner will of man. We must control and regenerate the mind.
The universal mind is the first production of nature, by which, I mean the eternal nature, the material (so to say and in a sublimated sense) essence of Deity. Evidently the first issuing outward or manifestation of the Unknown, was a Thought. Mind is the link between soul and body; it is a subtle form of matter, and is the vehicle of the soul, whether in an individual or a universal sense. Even a mode of motion, such as mind, is "matter" as compared with spirit. Mind serving to transmit the outward to the inward, may also convey the internal to the external. It may look forward or back. Be it remembered that spirituality is not what we understand by the words "virtue" or "goodness." It is the power of perceiving formless, spiritual essences. It may be used for good or evil purposes. The heart may be preoccupied with the eternal or the transitory in either (or both) outward and inward, for selfish or unselfish ends. Hence the initial importance of purifying the natural. Within the beast is that luminelle of the World-Soul, the Archaeus (3) which is the medium between God and man, and it may be alchemized (4) to be the Christ or Christos which is the mediator "for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." (5) Thus along the whole line, at every station and in every part, we have the power of choice, we may depart or return. While man is unconscious of his possible destiny, Karma governs automatically. When he becomes integrally conscious of it and the "moment of choice" is reached, he may turn the faculties of every organ either way. The responsibility of that Knowledge is then upon him and all his actions have a centupled power. (6) We must not forget that no part of his body or constitution stand by itself alone, but reacting and interacting forms a compact whole.
When the student examines his heart, he first discovers that he does not at all know it; he is not what he appears to himself to be. Perhaps he recovers from some grief which he thought would end his life or his interest in life; or he has longed apparently to end physical suffering by death and finds he has lived on because the real inner man had still the will to live, and finds the intermissions of pain as sweet as by-gone joys. Some withered part of his nature puts forth new buds, or the deadened senses resume the simplicity of youth and with the dying Falstaff he "babbles o' green fields."
"Festus, strange secrets are let out by Death,
Who blabs so oft the follies of this world:
And I am Death's familiar, as you know.
I helped a man to die, some few weeks since,
Warped even from his go-cart to one end –
The living on Prince's smiles, reflected from
A mighty herd of favorites. No mean trick
He left untried; and truly well nigh wormed
All traces of God's finger out of him.
Then died, grown old; and just an hour before
Having lain long with blank and soulless eyes —
He sate up suddenly, and with natural voice
Said, that in spite of thick air and closed doors
God told him it was June; and he knew well
Without such telling, harebells grew in June;
And all that kings could ever give or take
Would not be precious as those blooms to him." (7)
Perhaps sudden revulsions from the path of evil or pleasure have surprised him; or at the wizard touch of realization, the lover, the miser, the votary, the worshipper in him kneel no more but pursue the nimble chameleon desire to some remoter shrine. Behold the profound wisdom of Truth, which places the ultimate forever beyond his reach!
Seeing then that he can predicate nothing of himself, the student confines himself to an observation of the feelings welling up from those unfathomed deeps. It is here that I am fain to meet him with a few suggestions, for as I watch that tidal ebb and flow within my breast I see that I tasted so much of the gross sweetness of life in other lives that I know most of it now by reason of its being in me.
It appears insufficient to restrain passion or to check action so that they are pent up within us and wait over for their chance in another life. Under the law of attraction those accumulated forces will draw themselves forcibly together within the dreaming soul and driving outward, propel it back to earth and form. So Behmen tells us that the magnet or essential desire of nature compresses itself into a substance to become a plant and in this compression of the desire becomes a feeling or working, whence comes the growing and smell of the plant, and he goes on to remind us that if it were not for such an outgoing and working of the trinity in the eternal unity, the unity were but a stillness, and there would he no nature, no color, shape or figure, nor any world at all. This is the pattern by which all things proceed.
Neither is it wise to rush on in deliberate expenditure. While the burnt out nature may leave us in sight of the spiritual, we may stand there too exhausted to put forward the immense effort required to pass through. (8) It is not needful to plunge again into the mud of sensation to know it. Nor yet should we ignore those parts of us which produce such experience, but admit them and test them. We should not willingly rush hack into desires of the past, but accept all situations and study them, the heart fixed on the True. Then they do not sweep us off into delirious action, but we convert them into true action. Every man may misinterpret or pervert a true ray; he may reflect or deflect. The particular disposition of each man determines the direction, the mode of expression which he may give to any impulse instilled into his mind; this disposition is regulated by the preponderance and proportions of the "three qualities" in his nature. I shall hope to show that all impulse is based upon the True. We must then carefully watch those indices of old fires which are now only banked, and try to turn their powers, by inwardly knowing them, into our service. The discovery and right use of the true essence of Being — this is the whole secret.
The case standing thus, we ask ourselves what is the strongest motor of man. Is it not Desire? When I look out over life I see this strange potency dissimulating yet forcing its underground current along in defiance of laws and civilizations, asserting itself now and then in colossal upheaval, sacrificing health, wealth, fame, honor, love, and life for the intoxicating passion of the hour. I see also, in the arc of life, how the first fierce color of Desire, burning higher, blends here and there to purer hues in the solvent of the one light, and nerves men to sublime self sacrifice. Then I understand that the cohesion of life is in the True, and that this force, properly understood, must be the clue to man's whole nature. Back of its multiform expressions I find one meaning — desire to be. In lovers, in the poet, in the hero's leap to the deed, in the sensualist's longing to be born anew to joy, even in dumb brutes this vigorous stir of force means to expand one's finest essences for a new result on some one of many planes, and the truth of the eternal creative impulse, shines through the low act, as the fire soul through the opal's cloudy heart. Even in passion, tho' I find six drops of poison to the seventh, in that last drop hides the sublime counterpart. It is fed by some experience. Do not the intense sympathies for others feed and express it? I find that the desire of things is the love of them; this is the "desire which produces will, and it is will which develops force, (9) and the latter generates matter, (10) or an object having form. (11) As the Deity first feels desire "to beget His heart or son," so man follows the divine example, and by transubstantiation, begets a new heart or nature, and a new inner form.
Taking up the fact that man may misunderstand his own heart, I remind you that there are in nature, three great forces.
1st. — The creative. It corresponds to "Love in man." It is "Brahma, the universal expansive force in nature;" the Creator.
2d. — The preservative. It is Maya, the formative power of illusion or ideation; this stands for Vishnu, the preserver, and takes the form of Vanity in man.
3d. — The destructive force. Siva the destroyer; in nature the great separator which annihilating forms or illusions, brings us back to the recombinations of love and closes the circle. This force is Anger in man, and these three, Love, Vanity, Anger, are the three great gates of life and death.
As the author of "Primary Concepts" has most admirably shown us, all things are dual or polar. The other pole of love is lust; of illusion, falsehood; of anger, justice. Duality is the condition of manifestation: without it the deity must remain forever unseen. There is nothing finally and eternally "good" save the mysterious unit. Neither good nor evil is inherent in manifestations, forms or powers, but depend upon the uses to which these emanations are put. The moment departure from Deity takes place the free-will of Being becomes apparent; two paths present themselves for choice — duality and division. Duality is the harmonious inter-action of two opposites in force. Duality in action is a trinity in unity, composed of two forces and the resultant; this is the condition of life. Division is the discordant, or disconnected working of two forces, whereby one overpowers the other, acts for a time in sterile isolation and then ceases to exist in that shape or form. This is the condition of change or death. Without intercorrelation, without attraction and repulsion, we are without the attributes of life. As the life of the material universe can thus be traced to magnetism or desire, so all our personal desires have a common aim: sensation, or the realization of life. This is also the law of the Deity!
Tracing special desires back to their causes, I find each to be rooted in the True. Ambition is a perverted love of excellence. Falsehood is a misshapen desire to create. Fame is a restricted thirst for the immortal, and so on with all the originally pure thoughts of the universal mind, which have been appropriated and misconstrued by the elementary nature of man. Division has occurred through man's forcible adaptation of a true principle to personal and selfish ends. He ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge on that day when he first conceived good and evil to be single separate modes of progression, instead of counterbalancing powers working together for the same end and confined to the expression of harmony. He will regain his lost Eden on that day when he can look at every desire in the broad, quiet light of this question: How can I give desire such vent as shall conduce to the benefit of other men? The great watchword of the True is this; in last analysis all things are Divine!
To instance such a mode of dealing with any master passion, we will take up love, itself the basis of all desire. Continuity is said to be the law of laws in the world of effect. Love — the ethical expression of continuity — holds an identical position in the world of cause. Gravitation, polarity, attraction, cyclic necessity: hope, faith, aspiration; the sum of each and all of these is love. By this force, raised to its highest power, Masters become. Their great attainment consists in this — that they embody the law of love.
It would seem then that we should recognize the existence of this huge force of passion within us, so that we may drag it out on our mental and spiritual planes and clutch it so tight that we are master. This is not done by pretending to ourselves that such and such a propensity does not exist. All things must exist in each one of us, and we must understand them all as a figure of the real. For example — the contest of the sexes. Why do women lure men? Why do men rush after them? And do not women act with those who seek them just as nature does with us? She shows a part, and then retreats behind the bars. Then again she comes out and sometimes throws herself into our arms: this latter not so often. Although men and women differ much, either is to the other the mysterious undiscovered, to be conquered and known. Especially does this attraction come out when we have started upon the path, unless where a person is wholly devoid of it by nature, having burnt it out in other lives. What then are we to do? To yield is a mistake; it is the high spring of the impulse that we must understand, and then stand master of the lower form. This is the method spoken of in the Gita as burning it out in the fire of spiritual wisdom, for being bent upon finding the True, we naturally discard these false disguises. This same fight and self examination is to be carried on with the other traits, such as anger, vanity and so on, not referring it to self, but as sharing in the processes of nature, and for the sake of all those who are deluded by their own perversions of the True.
The heart sends out its impulses in circular and magnetic waves of feeling which surge through the man until they reach the coarse outer shell which renders them into the gross terms of matter. That does not suffice the inner man, much less the soul, for what they clamor for so loudly in that throb of fire and blood is the large sensation of those rich fields beyond the Gates of Gold. If we could catch that vibration before it reached the outer body, we should find that the inner man gave it a finer meaning, and if we will drop back within ourselves, we may by introspection come to understand somewhat of this higher language. We can arrest the ripples of feeling further and further within ourselves if we will to do it, and work off their impulse by the expenditure of higher energies which reacting, feed the soul itself. When we are attacked by an adversary, the universal mind says "separation"; the individual heart translates "anger." When a current of invincible attraction reaches us, the body shouts "passion," but the pure heart whispers "divine love," and gives a thought or act of brotherhood to all. Ah, my comrades, have not we and desire come together to learn this deathless lesson — that joy enduring is not in matter and that even its most tender love can not long contain the strange, the universal heart of man? We must then re-adjust our comprehension to its real meanings. This great victory can be won by supreme effort, and we are preparing ourselves for it by the daily efforts we do make. We may look to the natural laws of energy and growth for further help, and these will form the subject of another letter.
1. Sankhya, Karika, Thomson's trans. (return to text)
2. Bhagavad-Gita: Ch. 2. (return to text)
3. Isis. Vol. 2, page 35. (return to text)
4. Isis. Vol. 2, page 12. Note. — "Ether is both pure and impure fire. * * The difference is purely alchemical." (return to text)
5. Christian Bible. (return to text)
6. Light on the Path. Page 32. (return to text)
7. "Paracelsus," by R. Browning. (return to text)
8. See "Gates of Gold." (return to text)
9. The magnetic force; the soul force. (return to text)
10. Which is that force condensed. (return to text)
11. Isis, Vol. 2, page 320. (return to text)
The PathTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE