Character building is a potent inner quality that may manifest outwardly in various forms, according to the decision of the Ego or Inner Man.
Thus may a man learn to master his own stars, by eradicating in his character those vibrations which attract the analogous disciplinary stellar influences to him.
The individual may choose thus to hasten his development by speeding up the improvement in his own character. Or he may take the simpler way of the heart, the way of Intuition and Love. In this case he will, through opening his heart in love and faith, establish a direct link with the Great Plan, the joy of which superconscious Knowledge will uphold him through all experience. It will illuminate his path through life, investing sorrows and joys with the radiance of their inner message, so that he would not wish one particle of his life changed. ‘Stone walls do not a prison make’ – nor do palaces a paradise!
Illumined poets throughout the ages have expressed these truths. Milton said, ‘The mind is its own place and in itself can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell.’ We have to learn to taste life to the very dregs while listening intently for the inner spiritual message which it teaches.
The first step to mastery is, therefore, to put the mind in order, to train it to work clearly and dispassionately and to establish a true perspective on life. We must clear out from our minds quite mercilessly all the accumulated rubbish, so that we will have a clean free field in which to develop the marvellous latent powers which are our heritage. We must get rid of all ‘inhibitions’, all false values, uncertainties, indecisions, fussiness and restlessness, all those states which eat away the vitality of body and mind.
We have paid much money in the past to doctors and specialists to analyse our bodies for us. Finding the results not quite satisfactory, we instinctively turn to the psycho-analysts and psychologists, paying them to analyse that which we begin to feel is the root of our troubles. All those men do what they can for us because we have given them cause to believe that we do not care to hear the truth – namely that we could do much more for ourselves than they can do.
Worry, rush, noise, anger, fear and envy poison the system just as surely as if we took arsenic. If we err sufficiently in any of those ways we die; therefore, if we err in any lesser degree we are still injuring ourselves; even although death comes more slowly, we shorten our lives.
It is recorded that venom has been found on the tongue of a man in a rage exactly similar in its constituents to the venom of a snake. The same poison has been found to be generated in the body of an angry bull. Such venom would of course emanate in a fine form from the body of a vindictive and furious person, and act as a subtle poison to all contacting it. The story is told of the ward of a certain hospital for the wounded during the war in which an alarming percentage of the patients died. Investigations were pursued and it was discovered that the matron had been all her life a ‘man-hater’. After her departure the death rate returned to normal. There is also recorded an experiment in which the breath of a person who was very much upset was caught in a test-tube and found to contain enough poison to kill a small rodent in a few moments.
The effects of people’s emanations upon flowers, animals and children is often very noticeable.
Love and hate, then, have each their chemical form and action. It is obviously impossible for doctors or teachers to do us any permanent good until we learn not to poison ourselves and those around us.
The true spiritual qualities entirely eliminate these poisons.
Absolute faith makes fear and worry an impossibility. Unreserved love leaves no room for hate, anger, envy or greed. Worship of beauty in abstract and concrete form strengthens and protects man in all his activities. One who is able to live in this way needs no outside help and sheds warmth and radiance on all around him.
If we wish seriously to set the stage and prepare the way to this attainment our first step must be gradually to eliminate all unnecessary thoughts, desires and habits from our lives.
Every day for a few weeks we should examine ourselves thoroughly, writing down honest replies to the following questions:
Are we prepared to face the truth about ourselves and make a change?
Or are we liable to sit on both sides of the fence?
What are our faults? And what are our talents? What are we doing about them?
What are the things which affect and worry us? Just how important are they?
This examination should be persevered with until all the answers are clearly written down. It will be found that much sound thinking has probably never been done before. The result will be like a tonic to the brain and a stimulant to the endeavours. The important thing is to clear out everything from the mind which we can possibly do without, so as to concentrate all our powers upon the strictly necessary.
One of the Seven Devils of mankind is Possessiveness.
Possessions rule us while appearing to be our slaves. Our lives are cluttered up with possessions which we are sure that we need; they take up our time and money, tie us to places and complicate our lives in a thousand ways. To be continually looking at quantities of possessions confuses the brain. A clairvoyant gazes at the crystal merely to prevent her physical eye from seeing any objects; she knows that to see them detracts from the powers of the mind.
The Yogi discards all possessions, and tries to discover the minimum needs for physical existence.
Jesus Christ instructed His disciples to go out into the world to teach, taking only the barest necessities of raiment.
Possessiveness is the root cause of all wars, tyrannies and other obscenities. It is founded on an entire fallacy. If we endeavour to possess anything we at once separate that thing and ourselves from the rest of life. We are meant to possess all things, to share all things, to be a part of all life, to have power over all things – not over one. If we insist on striking always on one note the rest of the music is lost to us.
The desire to possess people or one person also defeats its own end, restricts progress and leads to jealousy – the gate of madness. We should respect the privacy and originality of every human soul and allow it complete freedom for development. Otherwise the inner spirit resents the outrage of repression and love dies.
Possessiveness arises from the innate unconscious knowledge that we are born to own and to unite with All; we must learn to transmute our petty physical possessiveness back to its divine origin. By this achievement a great amount of the unnecessary will be removed from our lives.
The next step is to study our own processes of thought. We will soon discover that we are usually ‘thinking of a hundred things at once’. It would be impossible for several shorthand typists to capture all the thoughts which jostle one another through our brains in the space of a few moments. This shows that we divide the power of our minds up into about a hundred parts, giving only a very small portion of it to any one thing. Therefore we do most things with a tiny percentage of our actual capacity, which usually remains for ever unknown.
Once having eliminated all unnecessaries from our minds, we can give undivided attention to anything we do. The completely undivided attention of the mind is all-powerful, omnipotent, a force that can burn through everything and bend everything to its command. This is known to occultists, mystics, and students of these things, who spend the best part of their lives in practices and studies with this end in view.
In the West such training as Pelmanism coincides in many particulars with the Eastern traditions and can produce similar excellent results. It can safely be said that nothing in any sphere of life will be successfully achieved until the capacity for one-pointed concentration has been developed.
The third step in the preliminary process of self-analysis is to gain a clear conception of our sense of values and as concise an idea as possible of our definition of right and wrong, good and evil.
Many of us do not agree with the statements of the Christian Scientists that there is no such things as evil and that pain does not exist.
We feel pain, and we see evil and ugliness around us. Perhaps it would be more practical to accept the evidence of our senses and try to discover what part the dark side of life is meant to play in the scheme of things and how we can best co-operate.
A little thought will make clear that this world is built up in reality of a collection of opposites, and that it is only through being able to compare these opposites that we are able to have any views at all. Light would be meaningless to us if we did not know darkness; summer would be equally monotonous if we had no winter; warmth could not be appreciated if we did not suffer cold; peace and silence exist to us by reason of their contrast with noise; and goodness itself would be non-comprehensible were we not able to compare it with evil. Without sin and pain where would we be? ‘Perfect’, with no possibility of further progress, static!
If we are to evolve to something better on this earth, we must be given some means by which to do so. How should we be able to grow, to learn, to conquer, without such aids as sin, sorrow and pain? If the imagination is sufficiently alive to picture a world devoid of ‘evil’, life would be seen going round and round in a complete groove, without incident, without change, getting nowhere!
In the earliest days of the religion from which part of the Christian beliefs have sprung, Satan was worshipped. He was understood to be the greatest benefactor of man, placing before him temptations and experience without which he would remain stagnant and futile.
Without experience man cannot create. At present humanity is said to be evolving from a state of ineffectual virgin ‘spirit’ into self-conscious creative ‘Godhood’, and this is mostly through the help of ‘evil’ or ‘Satan’. According to this, then, one can no longer call Satan ‘evil’, nor can one think of evil as evil if it is so beneficial to us.
It is possible, therefore, to say that there is no evil.
What, then, is there? What causes all the trouble?
There is only un-balance. Perfection is true balance of all the parts whether it be found in a human face, in character, or in the works of Nature. And this is where man’s free-will comes in. He is able to upset the ideal balance of things by stressing too much some particular aspect. This upsetting of the balance at once creates a state of non-perfection or ‘evil’.
Too much stress upon the possessive feelings, for instance, produces the ‘sin’ of jealously.
Too much stress upon the bodily sensations produces a glutton or a libertine.
Too much stress upon mental sensations creates a crank or a fanatic.
Even if a man puts too much stress upon his spiritual side and ignores his body he may go mad – unbalanced, as it is rightly called.
There are many lesser stages of madness not recognized as such – a snob, a miser, a murderer, all expressing advanced stages of over-balance or the putting of too much stress on any one thing.
We all do this inevitably in one way or another, because of our free-will, and in order to learn the great law of Karma – cause and effect, action and reaction.
Satan was at one time called the Magistrate of God, the Keeper of Karma and of Numbers. His work was to stand by and deal out the lawful effects of unbalance. It can be imagined, therefore, that the glutton might be given a diseased body, lasting throughout several lives until he learns balance in that respect. The fanatic or the man who has ill-used, or not used, his brain might be given imbecility for a life or two, until he learns to understand the necessity for keeping a balanced brain. The theory seems to be that the soul of man, in these cases, chafes with impatience within his imbecile or diseased body, bewailing the wasted time due to his former foolishness, and developing good resolutions for the future.
It takes a long time for man to learn this simple law of cause and effect, and meanwhile he blames his parents, circumstances or Fate for his shortcomings. When he learns that he himself has been developing these shortcomings in former lives he can no longer blame his parents. Nor can they say that they have not deserved such a son, for he is their Karma as much as they are his!
Finally, we are told, man will master this lesson of balance – or non-evil – in all parts of his make-up.
He will learn to love deeply, but unselfishly, without stressing the self, understanding and forgiving all because of his own experience and realization of the laws of development. He will no longer give all his love to his own people and nothing to the world. He will realize that all the world is serving him – with the experience he so deeply needs for his growth. And he will keep the balance by giving back to the world always, giving of all the love and understanding he has, without criticizing that ‘evil’ by means of which others are striving to develop, just as he is. Understanding the law of rebirth, he will realize that all stages, either of ignorance, sin, unhappiness or achievement, either have been or will be once his own. He will learn to balance his emotions with his aspirations, becoming dispassionately passionate, joyfully serious, calmly intense, unhurriedly quick, and actively passive.
To attain complete balance in the character self-study is necessary.
‘Man, know Thyself’ was inscribed over the doors of the wonderful ancient temples of learning as the most important injunction to all aspirants.
‘The man who has mastered himself has mastered the world’, is another well-worn saying, which gains in significance when we reflect that man is said to contain within himself a facsimile of and a link with everything in the universe.
Having thus set the stage mentally and physically for our progress to self-mastery, we can now outline the preliminary stages of the actual process.
The two most marked points in a person’s life are the beginning and the end of his day, and it is to these, first of all, that we must give especial attention.
There is a certain exercise which is given throughout the world to all those who are seeking ‘wisdom and perfection’. It is considered of primary importance, and like all exercises depends for its effect upon the regularity of its performance.
It consists of a careful Review of the events and actions of the day before going to sleep. The mind must travel slowly backwards through all the incidents, thoughts, motives, acts and words of the day, seeking quite impartially for traces of unbalance and also for traces of wiser understanding. Experience gained must be noted, and a frank and cool summing-up of failure and achievement must be made without either pride or condemnation.
This exercise, if faithfully and honestly repeated every night, will work miracles in the character. It performs two services of invaluable importance.
Firstly, it enables us to go through our Purgatory here and now as we go along, instead of waiting for its advent in accumulated form at some future date. By this means we can cancel out whatever particular ‘Hell’ we would have made for ourselves, as well as much earthly Karma. Our conscience, through being developed just like any muscle, will become so strong that in the end we will have as much difficulty in going wrong as formerly we had in trying to keep right. This is a fine way of clearing the decks for action, casting out much waste thought, remorse, and other exhausting inhibitions.
It will mean, also, that when we pass out of the body in sleep we can travel straight through to the heart of things, without being held back to the coarser realms by any tormented ‘earth-bound’ thoughts. Our sleep will therefore be deeper and more refreshing. We will have a better chance to gain the ‘soul-wisdom’ and inspiration which true sleep brings. This exercise also helps to etch experience into the memory, thereby avoiding the need for a recapitulation of the events, and so saves much time for the developing soul.
The second of these vital exercises must take place at the moment of awakening. An effort of the will should be made to capture and remember the ‘dreams’ or experiences of the night before they rapidly fade from the memory. All that is recollected, however trivial, must be written down. After some practice valuable ideas, inspirations and even prognostications will begin to be remembered. The final result will be an unbroken train of consciousness during the twenty-four hours.
By means of these two simple exercises, the morning and the evening Review, he whose inspirations are high, sincere and enduring may begin at once to achieve his Godhood and acquire his first-hand knowledge of the secrets of the universe.