The soul must be prepared, as a bride for her bridegroom, to receive the light of the numinous, if she is not to be injured or consumed by it. The various journeys and testings of myth and legend image the initiations by which the soul fits herself to conceive and bear the divine child, the spiritual consciousness. For to appropriate the light selfishly may be more fatal to ourselves and others than to be blindly possessed by the power of the darkness. Neither consciousness nor life are our own. Each is a mode of the divine. By accepting our lowliness as creatures we are at once saved from being lost in the emptiness of the Godhead and raised up to share in the divine activity of a creator who lives in His creation.
The darkness, to which we fearlessly commit ourselves, is not evil. When we accept it in ourselves and allow what is within us to become calm and clear and fathomless, we find that what we feared as self-loss is the gateway to a life beyond the lure of gain or the threat of loss. By rejecting or recoiling from the darkness through which the light must shine, we had perverted and falsely empowered it and, by tearing being apart from non-being, had fallen into a pit of our own making.
It is to a realization of this truth, however faint, that we begin to awaken, when we reach the crucial turning-point in our lives, from which there follows a change of tide in the deep current of our being. Some are even at birth innately nearer to this awakening than others are at death, and not, as might be suggested, through a mere lack of physical vitality. Rather, these, it may be surmised, are older souls who, in ways of which we have no certain knowledge, have already lessons so painfully learnt in the self-assertive cycle of human experience. Or they may owe their knowledge to their spiritual ancestry. Unlike younger souls, still avid for the pleasures and pains of sense-experience, such older souls, even when they yield to the allure of life, are haunted by a knowledge of its illusoriness. At present this kind of disillusion compels comparatively few to a life-long effort of transformation. But in the coming cycle their number is likely to grow, since the threat of self-destruction which hangs over every individual who has become conscious of the conflict in himself and fails to resolve it, hangs now over the whole of mankind.
What in past cycles has been an exceptional vocation has become a task to which every man and woman of understanding must try to contribute. To be aware of the necessity of this task and to commit oneself to it gives new meaning to the whole of life.
Even when I was a young man, I was obscurely aware that something of this kind was required. Doubtless a leading of this kind springs from deep roots in our spiritual history. We are born with it, as an artist is born with the need to recreate the world in the form of his vision or to evoke the harmonies of another dimension in his music. We come into this world, bearing in our souls the impress of past experience, whether exclusively our own or received from those who have preceded us on our Ray of spiritual descent to this earth. Whatever the pattern of this hidden background may be, it determines the situation into which we are born here and within which we live our human lives.
Because this situation is largely hidden from us as our lives begin to unfold, we react to it in all sorts of faulty ways. But later, when we are able to survey our journey and have become all too familiar with the kind of person we are and the problems we have repeatedly had to face, we discover a surprising consistency in what had seemed, often enough, tragic mischance.
The great Masters, who appear in different ages and civilizations to point the way, are born on this earth with an awareness of being which transcends the ordinary human condition. Their truth and example reinforce the truth within ourselves and strengthen and direct us in our quest. But the quest must be our own. A great teacher can only quicken in us a Light which waits the moment when we will allow it to shine in all its purity. That moment of inward revelation, which is also one of release from the false tensions of the divided human state, is the goal of the quest.
But it is unlikely to be sought with a sincere persistence or the prizes of the world foregone, until that 'Inlooker' in ourselves, of whom I have spoken, has begun to be more than a detached observer of the engrossed ego as it pursues, in a genial, sullen or extravagant manner, its own delusive interests.
This 'Inlooker' has always been more than a detached observer. For what we call our 'conscience' is, at least partially, a reflection of His pure consciousness. But our conscience is seldom, if ever, untainted by self-interest, because it is, in some degree, attached to the ego, if as its higher principle. Indeed with Freud, we might call conscience the voice of the Super-ego, though, with a characteristic bias, he derived it almost exclusively from the parental or other influences which inserted themselves into the growing psyche.
In the view of the Eastern teachers the higher ego acts as a bridge between the self, still attached to the realm of instinct, and the creative Selfhood which will eventually supersede it. But, being a bridge, influences traverse it from both ends or, if we visualize it as a ladder, from below as well as from above. That is why men are so often driven by their 'conscience' to do terrible or misguided things. Nevertheless 'conscience', or what we define more superficially as our sense of what is right, reflects, however faultily, the idea of unity.
It is through the pain of conflict that we learn more and more to detach ourselves from blind enjoyment and the spectator in us begins to manifest as an organ of pure reason or intuition. This faculty of direct perception is what the Indian scriptures call the Buddhi. It is beyond self-interest or compulsive attachment to external things, being transparent to a Light which informs it from within. This Light, no longer hidden within the flame or obscured by the smoke of an ego which endlessly burns in the flame, begins to shine clear in a heart pure and simple enough to receive the truth and an intelligence rendered wise by love.
Hugh I'Anson Fausset