The Way of Power

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The Way of Power

By Lily Adams Beck

Chapter XV

In a book dealing with such a subject as the hidden and yet open mysteries it is impossible to end without considering more fully the occult bond subsisting between humanity and what is called animal life, the reason being that union and sympathy with all is one of the straight ways to the Land behind the Looking Glass of the senses. That life is admittedly related to us biologically and on the lower planes of consciousness so intimately that the sharper lines of distinction drawn between it and our own have tended to disappear in the light of modern knowledge. What remains--not to be discovered, for discovery has already been achieved, but to be fully understood--is the inward relation of the subconscious of humanity and of animals. That this relation recurs often in the vision of the higher consciousness is known to mystics, and there are cases where it impinges on what we call the Divine.

This bond has been acknowledged though ignorantly by every people known to us, savage or civilized, in lower or higher forms. Among savage peoples the totem beliefs cannot be dismissed as either chance or mere analogy. Study that wonderful book "The Golden Bough," take the totem stories rooted, as Fraser asserts, in myth and legend. Read them in the light of the ancient Indian teaching of the Unity of the Universal with, in, and through all that is, and new meanings will flash from every page. Myth and legend! We talk as if men deliberately sat down and invented childish tales to amuse or alarm themselves in guessing at the meaning of their surroundings. It should be remembered that in some ways the subconsciousness of the savage is more alive than that of the heir of city-bred generations--he has not left Nature far behind, he communes with her more closely, especially where she becomes obviously animate and vocal as in her children of fur and feather. He has learned from them mysterious things which he feels but cannot pass on to ears and eyes dimmed and dulled by civilization. Therefore he half deifies certain animals, places himself under their protection, walks in fear or in love of them, and attributes to them occult influences which may either degenerate into what we call magic or rise into the true psychic. Some of his legends are true but not on this plane of consciousness. Others shadow truth in parable.

This is seen on a much higher step of the ladder also. Take as an example the half or wholly animal gods of ancient Egypt. Why does Anubis, one of the gods of the dead, wear the mask of the jackal? Why was the Bull worshiped as Apis? Why does the deified beauty of Hathor bear the full-circle moon poised between the horns of a cow?

We are told by scholars that the Bull received worship as representing virility and reproductive power, and though it is difficult to trace the presentation in all instances this may be granted as representing the material point of view which the average mentality of mankind, incapable of penetrating beyond the surface, would naturally accept. It found even cruder and more obvious illustration. But still the Bull persists in India as the inseparable companion of the god who, seated on the loneliest Himalayan peaks, is known as the Great Ascetic, and to those who realized and realize that animals are like ourselves phenomena or manifestations of the highest Thought of the universe that explanation never did nor can cover all the ground.

There is a mystic bond between ourselves and them which nothing can break, causing an agony of revolt in the spirit most highly developed in psychics at the thought of any cruelty to them. It is realized that in this we are torturing not only ourselves, for all life is one immutably, but something deeper even than that, to our inevitable and well-nigh eternal loss. Take the lines of Blake, that prince among mystics. (I write in a foreign country and without the book but the quotation is not far astray.)

"A robin-redbreast in a cage,
Sets all heaven in a rage.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
A dog starved at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain doth tear."

And so it continues through its litany of cruel-ties and their punishments. I remember when this revelation broke on me in its final fulness. I was walking along a country lane in England and a despairing hunted hare broke through the hedge to my feet with the pack of beagles upon it. I could do nothing and there they tore it to bloody rags under the enthusiastic eyes of the Master (a woman) and the crowd. For a moment like Blake I saw them as devils who find their joy in the sight of agony. That passed and it became possible to remember the callousness produced by ignorance which the Buddha describes as the very mother of sin. And my thoughts traveled on to what in writing of vivisection Professor William James describes as "the helpless dog shrieking before his executioners," in regretting that when suffering such torments the dog cannot have the satisfaction of understanding that his tortures may alleviate the sufferings of the human race which inflicts them. There are not many men who even when properly instructed would complacently submit to be dissected alive or infected with abominable diseases to serve that end, but even that side of the question is scarcely as important as the effect on the men who do these things and the nations which permit it. In the deepest reasons of the true occult such things are crimes and their so-called justification a plea of cowardly convenience or selfishness. And be it remembered that if such pleas are accepted they stretch further and to frightful ultimates. If it be said that manliness of a country must be fostered by these sports and its diseases cured by knowledge so attained, I reply that truer manliness may be learned by wise austerities of self-government, and rather than so cure diseases it is better to prevent them by adopting a simple and healthy way of living which also excludes the slaughter of animals for our food. Those who have cast aside the antiquated superstition of its necessity know the true gain to body and mind and still further and more profoundly to national prosperity in other ways. The wise and great Sir Thomas More in the reign of Henry VIII pointed out how far more costly and wasteful is pastoralism than agriculture: how little employment the first gives in comparison with the second and how pastoralism depopulates a countryside, whilst agriculture fills it with labor. "The sheep," he says, "do eat up the men."

As for the relation of food to psychic progress, the world-wide experience of the great faiths demonstrates this, as I have before pointed out.

To return: Note, in the high civilization of ancient Greece, how each divine being is attended by and partly manifested through some animal which becomes as it were a part of the divine effluence. Athene, the goddess of wisdom, must have her owl--wise to see in the dark that blinds others; Zeus his eagle soaring against the sun-light that dazzles lesser creatures, Hera her peacock, many-faceted in color as a jewel. In India the wise god, the Lord of Obstacles, wears the elephant's head with his kindliness of strength. By Vishnu, the Preserver, sits Garuda, his man-bird: Saraswati, the Divine Learning, rides her peacock. Passing on to China and Japan, amongst others one sees the Divine Compassion (Kwan-Yin in China, Kwannon in Japan) bearing the sacred fish. And this recalls the Christian symbol of the Fish connected with the Greek initials of the Christ. Our Scriptures teem with sacred animals, from the Four Beasts of Revelation full of eyes within and without "who rest not day and night crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy'" before the Throne, to the terrible image of the scapegoat driven out to die in the desert accursed and bearing the sins of the people--evolving later to that of the Lamb on whom it is declared are "laid the iniquities of us all."

Analogies, illustrations only, many will say. But no. A symbol is neither; it is a deeply felt unity seen from quite another angle than that of the material. Felt, not stated in logical terms, but known none the less by the deep undying knowledge which makes us a living part of the universe.

Leaving the subject of the recognition of the divine consciousness in animals let us consider our daily relation with them. Note how when man is exiled by sin or misfortune from his fellow men he is never alone whilst life is with him. Animal companionship is truly the highest form of this, but man's sanity and something greater in him can live on the presence of a growing plant whilst the companionship of a mouse, a rat, even a spider, can supply him with food for courage and cheerfulness, and solitude ceases to be solitude--for it is peopled with all the mysterious promises and fulfilments of eternal life.

And taking the more highly evolved forms of psychic life--such as the elephant, horse, cat, dog--what does not humanity owe to recognition of the unity between ourselves and them?  What has not intercourse done for them also? It is a marvelous mutual reaction. India, never failing in courage of statement, proclaimed the unity between us and took as a part of her teaching the evolution of soul as well as body from those lowlier forms of life, asserting that man sums up in himself all living experience and could not be man were it otherwise. Such also is the view of Plato--greatest of the Greeks. If this is the explanation of some of the instincts and strange wisdoms latent in our psychology it explains much that is obscure otherwise and lights up many dark and profound sympathies which we take as chance and meaningless until we consider them deeply. This is very apparent to all who have acquainted themselves with folk-lore in all nations. Here we have talk of the occult powers of animals whether manifested in anger or protection. All the fairy-tales of the modern world that are worth while are founded on this folk-lore--it is alive and lovable in such stories as those of Grimm, Hans Andersen; it is absent in the modern mechanically invented fairy-tale written by those who no longer know and take refuge in a kind of artificial prettiness and glib flippancy of invention. I am sometimes inclined to think the latest of the Masters was George Macdonald. He knew. Read his "Phantastes," "The Golden Key," "The Carasoyn," "At the Back of the North Wind," and you will understand that of all deep realizations in the world the understanding of animals is what we have most closely at hand for invaluable psychological advance. Cardinal Newman (I think in the Apologia) remarks that we know less of these lives lived about us than we do of the archangels. They concern us infinitely more at present, and the true understanding of them is a direct gateway into the higher forms of psychology.

I have seen a dog (who in other hands might have been "shrieking before his executioners") lead a man or a woman straight into realization of Unity by the power of love (the great Unifier) and the knowledge it invariably brings with it. Such a result I have indicated in a short, profoundly true story, "The Openers of the Gate," and I know that this is a subject worthy of closest observation and experiment. Not even the divinity of a child can open the Gate more surely than the other when it comes with the needed moment and to the person who is ready.

Furthermore, those who have gained foothold in this little-charted country are aware that some obscure physical stimulus which makes for health of mind and body comes from the companionship of animals--especially the domesticated ones, but not necessarily these. The horse, dog, and cat occur at once to the mind with their different powers of stimulating and soothing by their mere presence. They can unfold in a man traits hidden even from his own inmost knowledge of himself. They can make revelation to him in the great mystery of instinct, which is one of their forms of the subconscious, and they can communicate with those who understand this in a way impossible of any analysis in words, but intimate and near and possibly prefiguring some means of understanding much closer than speech.

Among themselves their means of communication are most interesting. I have observed closely and with sympathy and understanding and am convinced that they have more than one means of this. One, I believe, corresponds with our telepathy and it is used also as an understanding between people who have reached a certain stage of psychic evolution and the subconscious of the animals they love and who love them. Another, also a good deal used between themselves, is contact. Expression and sound they use as we do but in a lesser degree, having quite other means. This mystic intercommunion may be touched too in the volleying of great winds or breathing breezes in trees, in the giant glee of waterfalls thundering down stark precipices, or in the rejoicing of the jubilant abyss of ocean. He that hath ears, let him hear! And hearing can be developed. And so on the psychic side also. We are discarding the belief that our ancestors were in all things more gullible or more mendacious than ourselves. They felt, they believed, and because they did so they set down intuition and belief as a record. We have dismissed both as ignorance and credulity at best; They held that in animal life, even in plant life, the psychic sense abides (though they did not call it that) in varying degree. They felt, if they did not say it, that these little servants of the Law also are of "the dateless brood of Heaven and Eternity." They share with us these experiences of love, life, and death of which Schopenhauer wrote:

"I should point out how Beginning and End meet together and how closely and intimately Eros is connected with Death: Now Amenthes, as the Egyptians called him, is not only the receiver but the giver of all things. Death is the reservoir of life. Everything comes from Orcus--Everything that is alive now and was once there. Could we but understand the great trick by which that is done all the world would be clear."

It is interesting in connection with this quotation to note that in the Song Celestial of India, dated about the beginning of our era, this verse occurs:

"Know that That which pervades this Universe is imperishable. This is never born and never dies, nor, after being, may its being cease. This unborn everlasting abiding Ancient is not slain when the body is slain. For to those who are born death is sure, and to the dead birth is sure."

If Schopenhauer had considered the Indian teachings more deeply than even he did I think he would have understood "the great trick" and have had a soul at rest. So, though they could not put it in that language, the wiser of our ancestors knew that death did not, could not extinguish the psyche of the animal they had loved or dreaded, and on that presumption they spoke and acted.

Again, to those who watch animals with care and understanding it is clear that what we dismiss with ignorant superiority as "mere instinct" covers many mysteries of which we might well covet the key. Pan instructs his children well. They are conscious of Presences to which we are blind. Nature, dumb to us, speaks to them myriad-tongued. It is possible to certain people to have moments of revelation through the consciousness of some animal very completely in touch with them, and though people are chary of talking of experiences scorned by the vast ignorances of mankind, those who have known can assert that knowledge lies along that way,--as surely as on the physical plane we should see, hear, and smell in wholly new flashes of experience if the keenness of the animal sense could be added to ours.

They have their terrors also for us in many a ghostly parable.

In Japan the ghost-foxes clustered under mid-night trees with dreadful power upon any human being who opened a chink by which their influences could enter. Hiroshige has recorded with weird brush a gathering of these perilous creatures pallid in pale moonlight, waiting their moment of attack. In China the ghost-tiger slouches through snow to his dreadful work. But the animal-psyche is more often friendly and wise in the tales of all countries. A singing bird guides the way to the imprisoned princess who is the Ideal. The dog, who in life lifted his ears and stared at dangerous presences his master could not see, is swift after death to guard him from them. The cat, dangerous to those outside Realization, employs all her subtlety and wisdom in her master's aid when she returns as a spirit. And in the ancient belief animals are often shape-changers and can slip in and out of the human body at will. Some of these things are profound parables; others, as we shall learn, are true, when we ourselves have realized the immanence of the Eternal Spirit in all, and the world as it is rather than as it seems.

It is worth while waiting and watching for the sake of even a little understanding of the great truths which underlie the hints I have given. If, as many know, a lonely man or woman can rise to realization of the Love that moves the World through the companionship and understanding of one of "the lower animals" it is time we considered their manifestations more carefully. They know, they see, things we do not, just as we know, we see, things they cannot. Nothing but Realization can bring the necessary fusion.

And there is another form of union which can be gained from the gradual approach made through animal life,--oneness with the life of nature. Here too it is only possible to hint, for words are lacking. What it aims at is Realization of the Universal Spirit manifesting itself in personified forms in nature. Consider what the Greeks aimed at in their high teaching of the Universal Pan,--or All,--of the spirits innate in tree, mountain, rivers, and oceans. How can these things be devoid of an indwelling spirit? Florensky touches this in an essay on "The Humanitarian Roots of Idealism":

"Are there many people who regard a forest not merely as a collective pronoun and rhetorical embodiment--i.e., as a pure fiction--but as something unique, living? The real unity is a unity of self-consciousness. Are there many who recognize unity in a forest, i.e., the living soul of a forest taken as a whole,--Voodoo, wood-demon, Old Nick?"

Yes, just as in a crowd, a mob, the collective spirit possesses them and is one, moving them to deeds grotesque and terrible, so also the spirit of a forest is one and not the spirit expressed in the individual lives which compose it. They individually resemble the cells of the human body and collectively form a whole as does the body which is the summing up of the cells and has a higher psyche than any one of them.

I have realized this with insight in the great jungles of the tropics, but it is impossible to word why and how one knows what one knows, and to those who do not it is utter foolishness. There is nothing stranger than the contempt of one plane of knowledge for another. Doubtless the solution of all the riddles is simple enough and we have obscured simplicity by our own conceit of complexity.

Bain, says Ouspensky, defines genius as the power of perceiving analogies, and this is a definition which goes deep in the occult, though none can deny that surface analogies are misleading. He proceeds to quote Professor James's remarkable essay on Fechner as a percipient. I paraphrase, in my own words and with addition.

Fechner asserts that the entire earth we live on must have its own collective consciousness. So must each sun, moon and planet. If so how true was the inspiration of the Greeks in recognizing a great Earth Spirit to which they gave the worship due to a goddess. Fechner sees the Earth as a divine Spirit, the stars as Shakespeare saw them singing in their orbits, "still quiring to the young-eyed cherubim." So Fechner concludes it is with the human consciousness. Yours is yours and mine is mine. Yet they are known and used together in a higher consciousness than that of the human race into which they enter as constituent parts. To quote Fechner:

"On a certain morning I went out to walk. The fields were green, the birds sang, the dew glistened, the smoke was rising. Here and there a man appeared; a light as of transfiguration appeared on all things. It was only a little bit of earth. It was only one moment of her existence and yet as my look embraced her more and more it seemed to me not only so beautiful an idea but so true and clear a fact that she is an angel--an angel carrying me along with her into heaven. I asked myself how the opinions of men could ever have spun themselves away from life so far as to deem the Earth only a dry clod. But such an opinion as this passes for fantasy."

Not to those who have assimilated the great Indian teaching of the Unity. They will subscribe to Fechner's belief that human life and, I would add, animal and plant life are the sense-organs of the Earth-Soul. They know from what bow is loosed that unearthly shaft of beauty and how straight it flies to its mark. They know that together we all stand or fall and therefore it is that to any even partial understanding of the true occult, deep perception with regard to animal life is needed. It is an easier approach than to that of more remote and silent Nature. It has revelations to make far nearer our comprehension. It is as amazing as it is piteous that we have done so little yet to cross the gulf which we have permitted to divide the speechless from the speechful.

It is quite possible to argue that our acquisition of the art of speech with its limitations may have closed to us some other more psychic means of communication and that we have lost as well as gained by taking the line of least resistance. As the development of psychic powers proceeds it becomes certain that this is so. Telepathy and audible vision are not bounded by the feeble intermittent action of mouth and tongue, and it becomes evident that animals whose evolution has proceeded on different lines of development may have certain compensations very difficult for us to comprehend for their much less developed power of reason. Reason by no means has the last word on the Universe. There are points at which it becomes an obstacle, an ally of short-sighted materialism. Wordsworth and greater minds than his have been content to learn from what we proudly call the lower forms of life, and this necessity will be realized more fully as the spiritual thought of the East enkindles our own.

A great perfection in their utterance is achieved in the Song Celestial (the Bhagavad Gita) of India, written probably towards the beginning of our own era. Here is given the vision of Arjuna, the Pandava prince, when Krishna as the Soul of the Universe instructs him. In the precedent division Krishna has revealed to him the secret of the One in All and All in One--the royal, the hidden wisdom--and the Prince passioning with insight prays for a vision of things as they are. He says:

"Of Thy grace to me hast Thou related the supreme mystic tale called The One Over-Self, and thereby my bewilderment is dispelled. If Thou deemest, Lord, that it may be beheld by me, then show to me Thy changeless Self, O Sovereign of the Rule!"

The Lord spake.

"Behold, son of Pritha, the hundreds and thousands of my forms diverse, divine, various of colors and shapes. Behold now, O Wearer of the Hair-Knot, the whole Universe, moving and unmoving solely lodged in this my body and all else that thou art fain to see. But since with this thine own eye thou canst not see me I give thee a divine Eye [the higher consciousness]. Behold my sovereign Rule."

Thus speaking, the Lord of the Rule showed to Pritha's son his sovereign form supreme.

Of many mouths and eyes, of many marvelous aspects, of many divine ornaments, with uplifted weapons many and divine, the boundless God facing all ways.

There the son of Pandu beheld the whole universe in its manifold, solely lodged in the body of the God of Gods.

Thereupon the Wealth-Winner, smitten with amaze, his hair standing on end, bowed his head and with clasped hands spake to the God.

"I behold Thee massed in radiance on all sides glittering, scarce discernible, casting forth Splendor like fire and sun immeasurable.

"Thou art the Universe's Supreme place of ward. Thou art the Warden of everlasting Law.

"As moths with exceeding speed pass into a lighted fire to perish, so pass the worlds with exceeding speed into Thy mouth to perish."

This is possibly the most interesting statement of the vision of the higher consciousness in Eastern literature. In its vastness it includes all as the infinite must do. But it includes the infinitely little which is also a necessity of the Law, and the smallest thing which creeps or flies or floats its leaves on the ocean of air is as much and as necessary a part of it as we with our vaunted humanity. And there is not a leaf, or an insect, bird, animal, or man, which may not be an Opener of the Gate into the wondrous land which lies behind the glittering, misleading looking-glass of our senses. For, says the Song Celestial, "When such a one draws in his sense-instruments altogether from the objects of the sense-instruments, as a tortoise draws in its limbs, he has wisdom abidingly set."

And he being sense-free who holds a flower in his hand or looks into the eyes of a dog may know more truly than by the tongues of men and angels what the Divine is in the least of these his brethren and in himself. He will be aware and awake for all the hauntings of loveliness taking personal form in the deep solitude of the woods or on trackless oceans. Desiring no throne for himself, crowned and clothed with humility, he will claim no place in the universe because all is his. And fear can never touch him, because in the world of the true occult nothing can happen or exist that is not in conformity with law and therefore with a man's own inmost knowledge of the absolute fitness of things. Given the pure heart and tested, disciplined will none need fear to adventure. But indeed these two are not easy to acquire and in any case the wise will begin with the simplicities and so go on from strength to strength.

For the teaching of Indian thought is that not only are all things one with each other and one with the One, but that each in its place is the very keystone of the arch of the universe and the crown of Law so that without its existence all would ruin and fall to pieces; and this applies to what we call the animal kingdom as fully as to ourselves. It is probable--nay, certain, that no wrong can be done to any member of this great Unity without sending a shuddering vibration to the outmost orbit of the outermost star. Only of late years has material science begun to realize that the transplantation of a plant or an animal from its own sphere to another may bring disaster in its train, and things material are but the faint shadow of the spiritual reality behind them. One smiles in reading these great truths to think that they have been attacked because India, once their fervent believer, has in the mass followed other gods and has lost herself in the morasses of rite and formalism, though not even then with the materialistic results among ourselves. Her sufferings are material and temporary, her hopes spiritual and eternal even now. Whereas in the West our sufferings and hopes are alike for the most part material. But, be that as it may, truth being eternal can always afford to wait its day and demonstration.

The summing up of that matter is that because each thing is the keystone of the arch, when the soul is prepared by purity and high discipline the opening of the Gate may and probably will come by so simple a means and with such perfect naturalness that those skilled in the wisdom of this world would disdain it. But it comes and brings with it such blissful certainty of life, exquisite, abundant, eternal in and for all, that the man who knows may smile in thinking of earth's prizes.

Is the true occult, then, religion? Religion is certainly a part of it, for nothing is outside its circumference. And therefore the one impossible question to answer is, What is it not?

It is at least to know the truth in all things and to love it, to be a glad inhabitant of the darkness as of the light, to be the friend of the whole gradation of light to the highest, to call nothing common or unclean, knowing that all are one in a mounting perfection. Of such it may be said in the words of India:

"Death and fear I have not, nor caste nor creed, father and mother I have not, nor birth nor death nor friend nor foe, for I am Existence, Knowledge, Joy. I am the Blissful One, the Blissful One! How should I be bound by happiness or misery? No book nor pilgrimage nor ceremony can bind me. The body is not mine nor mine its decay, for I am Existence, Knowledge, Joy."



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