Those who will read our next lesson and thus gain an idea of the sublime conception of the Absolute held by the Yogi teachers may shudder at the presumption of those mortals who dare to think of the Absolute as possessing “attributes” and “qualities” like unto the meanest of things in this his emanated Universe. But even these spiritual infants are doing well–that is, they are beginning to think, and when man begins to think and question, he begins to progress. It is not the fact of these people’s immature ideas that has caused these remarks on our part, but rather their tendency to set up their puny conceptions as the absolute truth, and then insisting upon forcing these views upon the outer world of men, whom they consider “poor ignorant heathen.”
Permit each man to think according to his light–and help him by offering to share with him the best that you possess–but do not attempt to force upon him your own views as absolute truth to be swallowed by him under threat of damnation or eternal punishment. Who are you that dares to speak of punishment and damnation, when the smell of the smoke of the hell of materialism is still upon your robes. When you realize just what spiritual infants you still are–the best of you–you will blush at these things. Hold fast to the best that you know–be generous to others who seem to wish to share your knowledge–but give without blame or feeling of superiority–for those whom you teach today may be your teachers tomorrow–there are many surprises of this kind along The Path. Be brave and confident, but when you begin to feel puffed up by your acquirement of some new bit of knowledge, let your prayer–our prayer, for we too are infants–be, “Lord, be merciful unto me, a fool!”
The above words are for us, the students of the Yogi Philosophy–the teachers of the same–for human nature is the same in spite of names, and we must avoid the “vanity of vanities”–Spiritual Pride and Arrogance–that fault which has sent many a soul tumbling headlong from a high position on The Path, and compelled it to again begin the journey, chastened and bruised. The fall of Lucifer has many correspondences upon the occult plane, and is, indeed, in itself an allegorical illustration of just this law. Remember, always, that you are but a Centre in the Ocean of Life, and that all others are Centres in the same ocean, and that underlying both and all of you is the same calm bed of Life and Knowledge, the property of all. The highest and the lowest are part of the same One Life–each of you has the same life blood flowing through your veins–you are connected with every other form of life, high or low, with invisible bonds, and none is separate from another.
We are speaking, of course, to the personalities of the various students who are reading these words. The Real Self of each is above the need of such advice and caution, and those who are able to reach the Real Self in consciousness have no need for these words, for they have outlived this stage of error. To many, the consciousness of the One Life–the Universal Life–in which all are centres of consciousness and being–has come gradually as a final step of a long series of thought and reasoning, aided by flashes of truth from the higher regions of the mind. To others it has come as a great illumination, or flash of Truth, in which all things are seen in their proper relations and positions to each other, and all as phases of being in the One. The term “Cosmic Consciousness,” which has been used in the previous series of these lessons, and by other writers, means this sudden flash of “knowing” in which all the illusionary dividing lines between persons and things are broken down and the Universal Life is seen to be actually existent as One Life.
To those who have reached this consciousness by either route just mentioned–or by other routes–there is no sense of loss of individuality or power or strength. On the contrary there is always a new sense of increased power and strength and knowing–instead of losing Individuality, there is a sense of having found it. One feels that he has the whole Universe at his back, or within him, rather than that he has lost his identity in the great Ocean of Life.
While we are speaking of this phase of the subject, we should like to ask you if you have ever investigated and inquired into the real meaning of the much-used word “Individuality?” Have you ever looked up its origin and real meaning, as given by the standard authorities? We are sure that many of you have no real idea of the actual meaning of the term, as strange as this statement may appear to you at first glance. Stop now, and define the word to yourself, as you have been accustomed to think of it. Ninety-five people of a hundred will tell you that it means something like “a strong personality.” Let us see about this.
Webster defines the word “Individual” as follows: “Not divided, or not to be divided; existing as one distinct being or object; single; one.” The same authority informs us that the word arises from the Latin word individuus, meaning “indivisible; not divisible.” Does not this help you to gain a clearer idea of the Individuality that knows itself to be a Centre of Consciousness in the One Life, rather than a separate, puny, insignificant thing apart from all other centres or forms of Life, or the source of Life? We think it will help to clear your mind of some of the fog that has not as yet lifted itself.
And while we are on the subject of definitions, let us take a little look at the word “Personality,” that is generally believed to be a synonym of “Individuality,” and is often so used. Webster tells us that the word “Person” originated from the Latin word persona, meaning “a mask used by actors,” which word in turn arose from two other words, per, meaning “through,” and sonare, meaning “to sound,” the two combined words meaning “to sound through.” The same authority informs us that the archaic meaning of the word was “a character or part, as in a play; an assumed character.” If you will think of Personality as “a mask used by an actor,” or as “a part in a play,” or as something used to “sound through” or to speak through, by the real Individual behind the mask of Personality, then perhaps you will see a little further into the Mystery of Personality and Individuality.
Oh, dear students, be not deceived by the mask of Personality which you may happen to be wearing at this moment, or by the masks which are worn by those around you. Realize that back of your mask is the great Individual–the Indivisible–the Universal Life, in which you are a centre of consciousness and activity. This does not wipe out your identity–instead it gives you a greater and grander identity. Instead of your sinking into a Nirvana of extinction of consciousness, your consciousness so enlarges as you unfold, that you will in the end feel your identity to be the identity of the Universe. Instead of your gaining Nothingness, you gain Allness. All spiritual growth and unfoldment gives you a constantly increasing sense of relationship with, and agreement with, the All. You grow into Allness as you unfold. Be not deceived by this chatter about Nothingness, and loss of Individuality, in the Oriental thought, although some of the presentations of its teachings may so seem to mean at first reading. Remember always that Personality is the mask, and Individuality the Real One.
You have often heard persons, claiming to be acquainted with the teachings of Theosophy and other expositions of the Oriental Wisdom Religion (including our own presentation), asserting that the Oriental mind was ever bent upon attaining a final stage of Nothingness or Extinction in Nirvana. In addition to what we have said, and to what we shall say on this subject, let us quote from the inspired writer of the “Secret Doctrine” (a standard Theosophical work) when she says, in that work on page 286, Vol. I: “Is this annihilation, as some think? … To see in Nirvana annihilation, amounts to saying of a man plunged in a sound, dreamless sleep–one that leaves no impression on the physical memory and brain, because the sleeper’s Higher Self is in its original state of absolute consciousness during these hours–that he too is annihilated. The latter simile answers only to one side of the question–the most material; since reabsorption is by no means such a dreamless sleep, but, on the contrary, absolute existence, an unconditional unity, or a state, to describe which human language is absolutely and hopelessly inadequate… Nor is the individuality–nor even the essence of the personality, if any be left behind–lost because re-absorbed.” As J. Wm. Lloyd says, in connection with the above quotation, “This seems conclusive proof that Theosophy does not regard Nirvana as annihilation, but as an infinite enlargement of consciousness.” And we would add that this is true not only as regards the Nirvana of the Theosophist, but also of the consciousness of the Unity of Life–the Universal Life. This too is not annihilation of individual consciousness, but an “infinite enlargement of consciousness” as this Western writer Lloyd has so well expressed it.