The Basis of Morality/Chapter V

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Mysticism cannot be spoken of as a basis of morality in the sense in which Revelation, Intuition, Utility and Evolution are bases, for it is valid only for the individual, not for everybody, for the true Mystic, the dictates of the Outer or Inner God are imperial, compelling, but to any one else they are entirely unauthoritative. None the less, as the influence of the Mystic is wide-reaching, and his dicta are accepted by many as a trustworthy revelation—are not all revelations communicated by Mystics?—or as the intuition of an illuminated conscience, or as showing the highest utility, or as the result of an evolution higher than the normal, it is worth while to consider their value.

Mysticism is the realisation of God, of the Universal Self. It is attained either as a realisation of God outside the Mystic, or within himself. In the first case, it is usually reached from within a religion, by exceptionally intense love and devotion, accompanied by purity of life, for only "the pure in heart shall see God". The external means are prayer to and meditation on the Object of devotion—Shrī Rāma, Shrī Kṛṣhṇa, the Lord Jesus—long continued and persevering, and the devotee realises his Divinity by ecstacy attaining Union thereby. Such Mystics are, for the most part, valuable to the world as creating an atmosphere of spirituality, which raises the general level of religious feeling in those who come within its area; India has especially profited by the considerable number of such Mystics found within its borders in past times, and to a lesser extent to-day; every one who practises, for instance, meditation, knows that it is easier here than elsewhere, and all sensitive persons feel the Indian "atmosphere". Outside this, such Mystics occasionally write valuable books, containing high ideals of the spiritual life. As a rule, they do not concern themselves with the affairs of the outer world, which they regard as unimportant. Their cry continually is that the world is evil, and they call on men to leave it, not to improve it. To them God and the world are in opposition, "the world, the flesh, and the devil" are the three great enemies of the spiritual life. In the West, this is almost universal, for in the Roman Catholic Church seclusion is the mark of the religious life, and "the religious" are the monk and the nun, the "religious" and the "secular" being in opposition. In truth, where the realisation of God outside himself is sought by the devotee, seclusion is a necessity for success, if only for the time which is required for meditation, the essential preliminary of ecstacy. In the very rare Mystics of non-Catholic communions, full ecstacy is scarcely, if at all, known or even recognised; an overpowering sense of the divine Presence is experienced, but it is a Presence outside the worshipper; it is accompanied with a deliberate surrender of the will to God, and a feeling on the part of the man that he becomes an instrument of the divine Will; this he carries with him into outer life, and, undirected by love and the illuminated reason, it often lands the half-developed Mystic into fanaticism and cruelty; no one who has read Oliver Cromwell's letters can deny that he was a Mystic, half-developed, and it is on him that Lord Rosebery founded his dictum of the formidable nature of the "practical Mystic"; the ever present sense of a divine Power behind himself gives such a man a power that ordinary men cannot successfully oppose; but this sense affords no moral basis, as, witness the massacre of Drogheda. Such a Mystic, belonging to a particular religion, as he always does, takes the revelation of his religion as his moral code, and Cromwell felt himself as the avenging sword of his God, as did the Hebrews fighting with the Amalekites. No man who accepts a revelation as his guide can be regarded as more than partially a Mystic. He has the Mystic temperament only, and that undoubtedly gives him a strength far beyond the strength of those who have it not.

The true Mystic, realising God, has no need of any Scriptures, for he has touched the source whence all Scriptures flow. An "enlightened" Brāhmaṇa, says Shrī Kṛṣhṇa, has no more need of the Veḍas, than a man needs a tank in a place which is overflowing with water. The value of cisterns, of reservoirs, is past, when a man is seated beside an ever-flowing spring. As Dean Inge has pointed out, Mysticism is the most scientific form of religion, for it bases itself, as does all science, on experience and experiment—experiment being only a specialised form of experience, devised either to discover or to verify.

We have seen the Mystic who realises God outside himself and seeks Union with Him. There remains the most interesting, the most effective form of Mysticism, the realisation by a man of God within himself. Here meditation is also a necessity, and the man who is born with a high capacity for concentration is merely a man who has practised it in previous lives. A life or lives of study and seclusion often precede a life of tremendous and sustained activity in the physical world. The realisation is preceded by control of the body, control of the emotions and control of the mind, for the power to hold these in complete stillness is necessary, if a man is to penetrate into those depths of his own nature in which alone is to be found the shrine of the inner God. The subtle music of that sphere is drowned by the clatter of the lower bodies as the most exquisite notes of the Vīṇā are lost in the crude harsh sound of the harmonium. The Voice of the Silence can only be heard in the silence, and all the desires of the heart must be paralysed ere can arise in the tranquillity of senses and mind, the glorious majesty of the Self. Only in the desert of loneliness rises that Sun in all His glory, for all objects that might cloud His dawning must vanish; only "when half-Gods go," does God arise. Even the outer God must hide, ere the Inner God can manifest; the cry of agony of the Crucified must be wrung from the tortured lips; "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" precedes the realisation of the God within.

Through this all Mystics pass who are needed for great service in the world, those whom Mr. Bagshot so acutely calls "materialised Mystics". The Mystics who find God outside themselves are the "unmaterialised" Mystics, and they serve the world in the ways above mentioned; but the other, as Mr. Bagshot points out, transmute their mystic thought into "practical energy," and these become the most formidable powers known in the physical world. All that is based on injustice, fraud and wrong may well tremble when one of these arises, for the Hidden God has become manifest, and who may bar His way?

Such Mystics wear none of the outer signs of the "religious"—their renunciation is within, not without, there is no parade of outer holiness, no outer separation from the world; Janaka the King, Kṛṣhṇa the Warrior-Statesman, are of these; clothed in cotton cloth or cloth of gold, it matters not; poor or rich, it boots not; failing or succeeding, it is naught, for each apparent failure is the road to fuller success, and both are their servants, not their masters; victory ever attends them, to-day or a century hence is equal, for they live in Eternity, and with them it is ever To-day. Possessing nothing, all is theirs; holding everything, nothing belongs to them. Misconception, misrepresentation, they meet with a smile, half-amused, all-forgiving; the frowns, the taunts, the slanders of the men they live to serve are only the proofs of how much these foolish ones need their help, and how should these foolish ones hurt those on whom the Peace of the Eternal abides?

These Mystics are a law unto themselves, for the inner law has replaced the external compulsion. More rigid, for it is the law of their own nature; more compelling, for it is the Voice of the divine Will; more exacting, for no pity, no pardon, is known to it; more all-embracing, for it sees the part only in the whole.

But it has, it ought to have, no authority outside the Mystic himself. It may persuade, it may win, it may inspire, but it may not claim obedience as of right. For the Voice of the God within only becomes authoritative for another when the God within that other self answers the Mystic's appeal, and he recognises an ideal that he could not have formulated, unaided, for himself. The Mystic may shine as a Light, but a man must see with his own eyes, and there lies the world's safety; the materialised Mystic, strong as he is, cannot, by virtue of the God within him, enslave his fellow-men.