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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

The Divine Awakening and the Birth of the Year

Our thoughts rather naturally turn at this season of the year to such a subject as we have chosen for our study together tonight. Just at the moment when the Sun has taken its turn on its yearly pilgrimage, and once again begins to travel northwards, so do we as spiritual pilgrims manifest our unity, not only with Father Sun but with the whole of Nature; so do we at this season of the year turn our own thoughts sunwards, taking stock of our limitations, losing towards the source of strength and light, that we may find the means to leap over the obstacles which have so far hindered us in finding the philosopher's stone that will enable us by a power more than our own to change the base metal of our lower, material nature into the pure gold of the spirit. Is that not the meaning of this mystical season of the year? So it has always appealed to me. For many years now this month of December has signified to me a month of inward searching; a month of spiritual preparation for the six months — the six sacred months — of the Sun's northern pilgrimage during which all spiritual effort should be commenced; because if initiated during this period it has a greater productivity, and that which we try to do yields, instead of tenfold or twentyfold, a hundredfold.

This brings me to the first thought that I want to place before you in relation to the vigorous, inward, psychic and spiritual life that is at this season of the year brought to birth in the planet itself, which is our material mother. It has been declared in substance by the one who brought us the knowledge of this Ancient Wisdom in our modern era, H. P. Blavatsky, writing in her magazine Lucifer, the Light-Bringer, for the month of January, 1888, that it is no vain myth, the idea that resolutions, wishes, determinations, actions, aspirations, begun during the seasons bounded by Christmas and Easter have a hundred times more chance of succeeding, simply because the aspirant has set himself in tune with the great Cosmic urge and rhythm of Nature itself. When the psychic life of the earth is young and strong, the disciple, uniting himself with those uprising currents, and cutting through all the difficulties and obstacles that he has put in his own way by his blind struggling and unilluminated and unguided wandering; seizing the sword of spiritual knowledge, setting himself in tune with the great rhythm of the Cosmos, sets forth with the Sun on its northern pilgrimage. He knows that if, with faith, he travels along that Pathway in the footsteps of those that have preceded him, the light of the Supreme, which he finds burning in his own heart, will show him the Pathway before his feet always and forever, even though it be but the next step. It is not far that we need to see, if only we can see just the next step. Then the Divine Krishna, as we have heard in that reading from the Bhagavad-Gita tonight, in the Lord's Song, will enter into our hearts, and be the Warrior that will fight in us, giving us strength to do that which in our feeble, personal humanity we have been unable to accomplish.

Why is it, do you think, that men at this season of the year make so many resolutions upon which they turn their back within a few days or weeks, or sometimes hours? It is not that we have come to the conclusion that the things we set out to do were not worth while — not a bit. We are just as convinced that it was necessary to make certain changes in ourselves; but we have merely demonstrated once again that as long as a man is divided against himself, as long as he is pursuing not one end but a dozen or two, as long as the different parts of his personal nature are divided up, each one with the little 'I,' the little Ego, pursuing its own little desires, likes and dislikes, just so long will the individual man be unable to make those deep and permanent changes in his own psychology which he recognises to be so necessary when he reflects upon what he really is; when he really faces himself round about the first of January.

It is not necessary for me to ask, is it, whether you have tried the experiment of changing yourselves? I think we have all tried; and have we not all found to our ineffable disgust that if we do seem to change something, it has a most amazing way of changing back again, and we smile and shrug our shoulders and say "Well, one more resolution gone west." A great Sage once said that for a religion or a philosophy to be true it must contain the answer to every problem, and if Theosophy can answer those problems it has done for you and for me almost all that we can ask of any religion or philosophy; because if we can change ourselves, fashioning the base material of our natures into a fitting expression of the Gods that we inherently know ourselves to be, why, it would not be long before we could transform the face of this weary modern world of ours. It is spiritual and individual regeneration that we want to find the key to. "Yes," you will say, "perhaps, but it is a tremendous task — a task indeed the most difficult, the most tremendous, that the spirit of man can undertake." That is true, but should you and I be put off entering the most sublime spiritual adventure that man can embark upon, merely because it happens to be the greatest adventure, the greatest task, and the most difficult one? I do not think so. In fact it is my conviction that too much is made of the difficulty of the task, and not enough of its possibility of accomplishment for you and for me in this very hour. It is that which is the clarion call of Theosophy to men and women of all religions and all races and all creeds: that if they will arise and seek out the ancient Teachers of the race, they can conquer, they can win in the greatest task that the spirit of man has ever had before it. Otherwise what is the good of philosophies and what is the good of religions, if they have no message for the millions of the outcast, the poor, the suffering and the oppressed — the people that seek for the bread of life and do not know where to find it?

If Theosophy were only for the few, for the one in ten millions, I would doubt its value. After all the same light lighteth every man into the world, the same problems beset humanity; and you have the great Masters of Compassion telling us always that their concern is not so much to care for the successful disciples, those who take knowledge by their own strength — for those people you cannot stop; they will seize their divine heritage and make it their own. But it is to take to the great orphan humanity the knowledge that they also have a Divine heritage; that it is for them also to open the gates of their inner being, to let in the light that is there shining, if they will but have courage to dare to enter upon the great adventure. In all the Scriptures and all the great religions of antiquity you have had the same story, put in myth and parable, in simple language, as well as the more difficult kind of metaphysical ideas. And a very good example is that reading that you had tonight from our Chairman: the end of the Fourth Discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita — the Lord's Song, the Song of the Soul. And note the paragraph that comes at the end of every chapter: "The Holy Bhagavad-Gita, the colloquy, i. e., the conversation; and the Divine Teacher: not an external man, not a Savior who shed his blood for us in his human nature to wipe away or to make atonement for our misdeeds, but verily the only Savior that the Wisdom of the Ages recognises — the Divine Spirit in man himself, the Christos in man, the Krishna. And what is his message in that Fourth Discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita Why this: that even the most evil man — note: even the most evil man, when concentrated with singleness of heart and mind in devotion to the Supreme, will speedily cross over the mire of his sins and failings in the bark of spiritual knowledge.

And in another chapter, which is called "The Yoga of the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery," viz., the ninth, he uses practically the same phrase, pointing out that such a one should be accounted a righteous man because he had decided rightly; he had learned after all his disillusionment, his sufferings, and his defeats that there was only one means, by whatever road he might travel, to get to that state of consciousness. This was the recognition that his individuality, which with suffering and pain he had built up, developed, grown, through all his age-long evolutionary pilgrimage up to that point, was after all but an instrument of the Divine Self, which at last he was called upon to set aside. He had got to renounce the personal Ego, to realize that of his own power he could do nothing, and he comes to that most difficult of human tasks — to jump over the brink; to plunge into the abyss, as it seems to the human aspirant, willing at last to lose his own life, yet sure by the light of the faith burning in his heart that there would be reborn in him something all-permeating, powerful, strengthening, revivifying, alchemical — transmuting all the baser elements, all the obstacles in his personal nature that he had battled with in darkness and found no victory up to that time. That idea was beautifully put by a disciple that wrote under the pseudonym of "The Dreamer" in his Studies in the Bhagavad-Gita:

Happily for him, from his bleeding and lacerated heart now wells up the prayer — "My heart is weighed down with the vice of faintness, my mind confused to all Dharma. I ask Thee which may be better; that tell me decisively. I am Thy disciple, suppliant unto Thee. Teach me."
Aye, prove it to me. I am defenceless. I have set aside all weapons. I am face to face with myself at last.

This prayer, not lip-deep as before, this complete self-surrender of the immortal man to the Divine, this recognition by the heart of the supremacy of the Spiritual Self, forges the last link in the chain of the sixfold virtues which binds us to the Guru, who is Iswara. This prayer of the human self, the soul whose "feet are now washed with the blood of the heart," this complete renouncing of all Dharmas, this final falling back upon the Self of all as the only refuge, this final union, which in the words of the Sage Sanjaya is the guarantee of the final victory of the human self, goes up to the Divine.
You see, it is in this that we really find the explanation of the statements in mystical literature: that it is not until this moment that the voice of the individual aspirant is even capable of really making itself heard in the courts of the Holy Ones — the great Teachers of the human race. So far his voice has only been the voice of the personal man, but at this moment his cry goes up to the Divine.

And now, and now only, does the soul get the loving guidance of the Logos, and from the Divine comes a down-pouring of spiritual life and energy which unifies the discordant forces in the man; . . .
You will note here that it is the Divine power that does this once the great surrender has been made:

from the Divine pours in the sweet melody of the Song of Life, the Eternal Gita, the Harmony of Love which synchronizes the jarring forces in the bodies of the man; the Supreme Melody, which opens the eye of the now divine man to the one Life, Consciousness and Love, which unifies the Lokas and the Talas, the high and the low, the virtuous and the vicious, dharma and sin, knowledge and ignorance, attachment and dispassion — the ineffable harmony of the One.
As I understand it, that is the message, the essence, of the teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita, as it is the essence of the teaching of the New Testament, the essence of the teaching of Buddhism. You will find it everywhere without exception when you begin to look for it, for it is the age-old message that man can never find redemption by looking outside himself; and the joyful news — the glad tidings — that there is within man a power that will enable him to do that which he and all men really want to do, aspire to do, long and yearn to do, if it were not for the binding forces of those attractions which constantly lead the dual nature of man away from his Divine possibilities. Of course, this idea is implicit in every line of every Theosophical book; it is implicit in every line of the Christian Gospels; it is implicit in every line of the Bhagavad-Gita. There are men and women of real spirituality everywhere; wherever you may go, you will find fellow pilgrims, brothers who understand the meaning of the Lord's Song, because they have found it in their own lives. They call it by many names, but that to the Theosophist means nothing. We care not what terminology a man uses. He can call it what he likes; it is not the words that matter. What matters is whether the man has experienced it; whether he can do it.

What is the meaning of that fellowship which the Theosophical Movement aspires towards when it talks of Universal Brotherhood? Believe me it is not only a recognition that all men are physically, psychically, mentally, spiritually united by indissoluble bonds, as they are with the whole of nature; it is not merely that intellectual recognition. Why is it, think you, that not only in the Churches, but to a large extent in the Theosophical Movement, there is not that living fire of spiritual fellowship which is a thing that gladdens the heart and liberates men from all feelings of separateness and antipathy? Why is it? I will tell you. All spiritual fellowships and ideas of Universal Brotherhood are built on the assumption of a common experience, of a common realization of God, of deity, of divinity, which each man, each aspirant, finds in his own life, and then walks with that Divine Companion, as it were, following in the direction that is shown to him. Do you not see that in a Theosophical Lodge that is composed of men and women who believe in their own Divinity, who have experienced it and know its power and its tremendous joy; that in such a Lodge there must be a real spiritual fellowship that is entirely different from that which exists theoretically, because of a philosophical conception that all men must necessarily be one? But when you know that in the fellowship to which you belong are men and women who are trying to live day by day in the light of their own Divinity, who never do anything unless they seek out the Warrior within, first pausing to stop and think before initiating any action lest the personal man get in the way — Ah! there is the basis of true Brotherhood.

Did not Light on the Path tell us just that thing? Listen to what it says in the beginning of the second series of numbered paragraphs:

Stand aside in the coming battle, and though thou fightest be not thou the warrior. Look for the Warrior and let him fight in thee. Take his orders for battle and obey them.
Now that means it is possible to receive the orders, otherwise you cannot take them, but you won't receive them unless you believe in your own Divinity; and believing means doing, otherwise you do not believe, obviously.

Obey him not as though he were a general, but as though he were thyself, and his spoken words were the utterance of thy secret desires; for he is thyself, yet infinitely wiser and stronger than thyself. Look for him, else in the fever and hurry of the fight thou mayest pass him; and he will not know thee unless thou knowest him. If thy cry meet his listening ear, then will he fight in thee and fill the dull void within. And if this is so, then canst thou go through the fight cool and unwearied, standing aside and letting him battle for thee. Then it will be impossible for thee to strike one blow amiss. But if thou look not for him, if thou pass him by, then there is no safeguard for thee. Thy brain will reel, thy heart grow uncertain, and in the dust of the battlefield thy sight and senses will fail, and thou wilt not know thy friends from thy enemies.
He is thyself. Yet thou art but finite and liable to error.
You see this keynote running right through the whole of mystical literature, warning that the personal man can do nothing of himself except to prepare the instrument, prepare the vessel, and sweep clean the Tabernacle. That is all.

He is eternal and is sure. He is eternal truth. When once he has entered thee and become thy warrior, he will never utterly desert thee, and at the day of the great peace he will become one with thee.
Again there is our beloved H. P. B. telling us that once a man's Divine Spirit enters into the Tabernacle of his body, it will very soon redeem him. I would to the Immortal Gods that we might get a new spirit abroad in this Theosophical Movement of ours, realizing and practising these ideas, and that we might begin at home right here with this New Year that is dawning before us this very night. Why should we not do it? A new spirit that will enthrone not external leaders, not Presidents of Lodges or National Sections, not priests or those with temporal authority. Let us be willing to step down from our places of authority. I believe that all men who have ever experienced the saving power of the spirit within them must recognise that of themselves they are nothing; that at best they are but instruments of the Universal Spirit of Truth, of Wisdom, of Love and Compassion and Pity that men call God, or Christ, or the Kingdom of Heaven, or Nirvana — I say enthrone That, and let him who would be greatest amongst us be willing to be the servant of all in this that we call a Universal Brotherhood. In that way we can bring into existence a real living Fraternity, not a lip thing, or a mere ideal theory, but a reality based upon an experience of the Soul, whereby each Theosophist recognises in his brother one who has enthroned the Supreme in his own heart — the One Reality, in whose light all are living, working, laboring, in a common Cause. That would be a real Brotherhood, and possible here and now, not for one or two, but for all, otherwise of what value?

Just imagine plans, campaigns, individual and corporate, made under the direction of the Higher Self, which being ultimately the Self of all, could not, by its very nature, be against the interests of any. Each for all and all for each. But let us be honest with ourselves. It is impossible to realize this idea, impossible, if in this day and hour we do not invite the companionship, the Divine power of the Spirit within to fight and work in us, so that we may truly change. If we take these ideas into our lives and into our hearts this night, at the turning point of the year, backed by the tremendous energy and faith of our spiritual wills, who shall say what miracles may not be accomplished in the eventful year of 1934 that will be with us in such a few short hours.

Let us close with the prayer that those who feel called to enter that sublime adventure, will dare to risk all that they have and are, to lose and forget themselves, in order that they may take the Kingdom of Heaven by storm or by violence, or whatever term you may like to use. For it is such men and women that will bring about a new order of ages in this weary world; verily, the Kingdom of Heaven coming in the hearts and minds of men.



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