Essays from "The Theosophical Path" by Talbot Mundy


By Talbot Mundy

May 1924

The aspects of Theosophy are infinite, but Hope is foremost at our present stage of evolution. For without Hope there would be no aim in living, and that poet who wrote "Hope springs eternal" was an accurate observer of eternal truth. The difficulty is, that hope, as it is commonly accepted, is a chancy, vain, imaginary creature of the lower senses, based on appetite and doomed inevitably to be disappointed for the reason that although its objects may appear to be attained, they are illusory. The yearnings of the lower hope are selfish; they are rooted in doubt, which is ignorance, and in personality, which is a fraud; they presuppose that there can be effect without its cause or an effect not justly and exactly consequent upon its cause. But true Hope knows there is a Higher Law which guides the Universe, and that as surely as the sun shines there is a Higher Purpose, which includes all individuals within its scope and works infallibly, through evolution, toward an outcome too glorious for human brains to comprehend. The Higher Hope is an expression of the knowledge of the Soul.

It appears to be a rule that every aspect of the Higher Nature must be counterfeited on the lower plane, and though that is ultimately only an illusion, it is none the less a practical condition now with which we must cope. We have accepted a physical world, and human birth that subjects us to physical circumstances; and it is with those that we must deal, although there is a popular philosophy which claims that, everything being illusion in this world, and illusion having no existence, all we have to do is to assert the truth of being and be prosperous.

But that popular philosophy overlooks this all-important detail: those very senses with which we are invited to assert the truth of being are themselves illusory; those senses do not know the truth of being, are incapable of knowing it, and no amount of technical phrasing or mass-psychology can give them power to change the effect of cause or to avoid the results of ignorance. It is very easy to admit that physical conditions must be unreal, when discomfort forces us to yearn for comfort; it is not so easy to admit that, however, when fortune appears to favor us; and the admission becomes impossible, except as a mere obstinate reiteration of a formula, when we find ourselves obliged to take action of any kind. Action presupposes the reality of that on which we act and react. We find ourselves, to all practical intents and purposes, in the midst of conditions in which it is impossible to foresee, or even to guess the immediate, to say nothing of the ultimate outcome; and although, as for instance in war, we can sometimes force an issue, not the ablest human brain can calculate what the real effect of that force will be, to ourselves or to others.

Recognition of this fact has led to fatalism. Rebellion against it leads to mediumship, fortune-telling, and innumerable doctrines that aim at establishing control of unseen forces by means of which the individual is supposed to be able to rise above necessity and justify his own immediate desires. A glimpse of the world through the pages of the daily newspapers is proof enough that very few of us are satisfied with circumstances as they are, and that very many of us are applying opposed and often violent remedies, the only outcome of which must be chaos. And yet, Hope springs eternal. The sun rises. The stars keep their appointed places in the sky. And here are we. What is this Hope that so inspires us, even in the face of superficial fatalism and continuous calamity? What is the Higher Impulse that impels us constantly?

We see in crudest form the lower hope and its absurdities when a man hopes for rain, and his wife for fine weather; or when some individuals hope that prices of commodities will rise, while others hope with equal fervor that the same prices will fall. Criminals hope for a successful outcome of their crime. It used to be a practice in many coast settlements to hope, and even to pray to God, for a good shipwreck to enrich the community; and it is no rare thing in modern life to hope for the downfall of another nation or a rival mercantile concern, on the supposition that the disaster may benefit others. We have all heard the expression " I hope he may choke," and most of us have shared the sentiment at some time or another, even if we have not voiced it. Gamblers hope that someone else may lose in order that they may win. There are innumerable forms, some not so crude as others, in which this counterfeit of Hope has grown familiar to all of us; and, since its essence is that somebody must be disappointed in order that somebody else may profit, there are few who will deny that at its very best it is no more than an emotion, based on ignorance of what is really going to happen. The lower hope is speculative, at its best, not moral, and never in the long run satisfying. But the Higher Hope is born of knowledge of the Higher Law. It is the breath of that knowledge, its divine and satisfying presence. It is eternal, all-embracing, and it knows.

The surest way to become hopeless is to hope for material reward for spiritual effort; that brings swift and dire dissatisfaction. A material goal precludes all knowledge of what spiritual values are, although the false hope may persuade us that we are striving spiritually, and the ultimate effect is consequently doubly disappointing. To seek spiritual knowledge in order to apply it to material ends is the rankest sacrilege and is more inevitably dangerous than to linger a while longer in frank materialism; because to be a self-confessed materialist infers sincerity, which is a virtue, whereas hypocrisy is the meanest, most cowardly and fatal shape that the lower hope assumes. There is no hypocrisy in the Higher Hope, no doubt, no self-deception.

Optimism, in the ordinary meaning of the word, is hardly an advance on pessimism, being only the reverse of it; the one 'hopes for the best' without justification, the other 'looks for the worst' and very often fails to find it. The last degree of optimism is the hope that the observance of some stipulated forms of worship will pilot the faithful ritualist into heaven, where all traces of sin will vanish instantly and there will be no awkward consequences from the misdeeds of the past; and the last degree of pessimism is the mad belief in hell, where no good deeds can ever be rewarded and eternity is one long torture. Hope -- true Hope, that is -- knows neither of these lawless lower-plane inventions, but exists, triumphant, knowing that Justice, though tempered with mercy, is unfailing and is utterly inseparable from existence.

Faith, Hope, and Love, that divine Triad so often named, so seldom understood, are One, and cannot be understood if the attempt is made to separate them or to limit them within the confines of materiality. They are spiritual -- that is infinite and universal. Even momentary apprehension of them brings us into harmony with all the unseen, spiritual forces of the Universe, asserting in our consciousness the true divinity of man.

Hope is the voice of the Soul that assures us all is well, and that experience, of any kind whatever, is a means by which we may learn how to live in our Higher Nature instead of yielding to the ignorant solicitations of the lower. Faith is conviction of the Higher Universal Purpose that includes all life in one grand scheme of evolution. Love is recognition of the Universal Brotherhood that would not, even if it could, exclude one individual from its all-comprehensive school of experience.

We know, and mock the fecklessness of Charles Dickens's Micawber. who was always expecting "something to turn up"; and even on the mere material plane of day to day affairs, in which no law is recognised except the hour's necessity, we act on the assumption that we must do something before we can get anything. The lowest criminal and the vilest sensualist alike know that the satisfaction they seek can only be attained by action in some form or other; and their acts are the expression of the hope they entertain; the viler their desires, the worse the acts that they commit. Not hearing that Hope which is the Soul's voice singing of the Universal Purpose, they are deceived by the counterfeit voice that echoes in the empty caverns of the lower self, where envy and suspicion and all Truth's opposites hold sway, in darkness.

All deeds -- even the Micawber-like indignity of doing almost nothing -- are expressions of some form of hope; and the effect of acts committed is related intimately to the hope that governs them. The lower hope is blind; it calculates in minutes, hours -- at most in terms of one short lifetime limited by death, whose hour is unpredictable. The Higher Hope, triumphant in the knowledge of the Universal Law, assured that every deed produces justly and exactly measured consequences, inspires deeds that not only can do no harm, but that must contribute to the universal benefit. It finds its expression now, in deeds that are utterly unselfish, and it leaves their consequences to the Higher Law. Hope exists in beneficial action.

Faith is the strength and the substance of Hope. It is the knowledge that the Higher Law exists and deals unerring justice. Faith is the begetter of sincerity, that staunchest of virtues, which, if a man has it, will redeem -- inevitably must redeem -- him, howsoever gross his sins. Few words are more abused than Faith in their everyday interpretation; like the lower hope, the lower faith is nothing but a counterfeit. It varies from a so-called faith in luck to a belief in a vicarious 'salvation' based on the acceptance of a stipulated doctrine. Men speak of keeping faith with one another, who have not the remotest notion of what real Faith is, and who have no intention of preserving even the appearance of honesty toward any but their own immediate acquaintances. Such faith is either a belief based on ignorance, a loosely applied synonym for policy, or unadulterated fraud. It is a label which hypocrisy too easily applies to selfish plans, and, like personal honor, it depends for its interpretation on the personal caprice of those who walk in ignorance or in defiance of the Higher Law.

True Faith is more impregnable than iron. It is divine. Its strength increases in emergency. It governs deeds, ignoring the emotions of the moment and the threats of temporary storm. It knows no compromise. It is the consciousness of true divinity, the will to hope, the confident acceptance of the Higher Law, the essence of all right action. There is no fear in Faith, for fear cannot exist in contact with it. Faith and Hope together are the very spirit of the trees and flowers, of the stars and the clouds and the rolling rivers that bear the dust of mountains to the sea to make new earth for unborn continents.

Faith, discerning 'now' to be the presence of eternity, postpones no proper duty to a more convenient time. As the sun makes its presence felt by light and heat, Faith finds its being in deeds. Its very breath is action. It knows neither haste nor weariness, but everlastingly supplies the energy of Hope and Love.

Not even Faith is commonly more misinterpreted than Love. The whole dark fiber of sensuality, double-dyed with sentiment, is woven into a shroud with which to hide the glory of divine Love. The rankest, most destructive forms of selfishness are used to screen Love's rays. There is not one foul crime that has not been committed in Love's name. Men speak of Love, and store up deadly gas with which to poison men of other nations; they preach concerning Love, and hang convicted boys, whose crimes were mainly due to other men's neglect or other men's example. The doctrine "Love ye one another" is regarded as extremely good advice to other men to love us and our peculiarities, but is not allowed to influence us much in our initiative toward them.

Yet Love is recognition of the fact of Universal Brotherhood and is inseparable from Faith and Hope. It is the opposite of selfishness. Its action is obedience to the Law that no good can be gained except by benefiting all, and injury to one is injury to all, the injurer included. Being totally unselfish in its motive, the first impulse of divine Love stirring in the consciousness is toward self-regeneration in order that the self may not harm or impede others; and the instant companions of that impulse are the voice of Hope, that foretells progress, and the thrill of Faith assuring us of what the Bible calls "the everlasting arms" -- the Forces that support and guide the constellations, Mother Nature, and ourselves.

Neither Hope nor Faith nor Love are in any way conditioned by the senses, which they purify and change until the lower nature yields under the invincible influence of the Higher and we see the grandest of all triumphs -- one step upward in man's evolution. Hope, then, has a wider view, and understanding dawns that evolution is eternal and the spiritual progress of the individual is linked inseparably with the life of every living thing.

Thereafter, Hope becomes a challenge. No retrogression then, no overwhelming flood of circumstance can drown the consciousness of individual responsibility. We know, for Hope has told us and the inspiration cannot die, that we direct our destiny and reap exactly as we sow. The Law, that as we do to others shall be done to us, becomes intelligible and so blended in our thought that every action is intuitively governed by it. Not a circumstance arises but we recognise the challenge to maintain our spiritual vision and to reject the suggestions of our lower nature in order that the Higher may prevail and benefit mankind.

Illimitable fields lie fallow in the view of Hope, awaiting husbandry. No three-score years and ten outline the vision. Temporary barriers that name themselves impossible, and temporary needs that trumpet their importance, sink to insignificance in the perspective when the Higher Hope reveals the spiritual truth of rebirth and the endless scope of action. When it dawns on understanding that a deed done now must have its corresponding consequence and that, in after-lives forever, we must feel in our environment the unspent sum of every effort we have made unselfishly for others; when we realize that out of deeds done now power to do greater deeds is born, the least, unnoticed effort becomes glorious, and every waking minute then presents itself as golden opportunity.

Time loses its hypnotic spell when Hope outcharms it. We become aware of a new reckoning of time, in spiritual terms, recording spiritual progress. Within the sanctuary of the Soul, where no material sense-clouds can dim or tumult penetrate, the secret knowledge of the Higher Law broods permanently and inspires to wise, unselfish action that contributes to the universal need instead of flattering the temporary mood of passing hours. So Hope engenders wisdom, of which ignorance knows nothing, and the ignorant attempts of those who lend themselves to malice fail because they cannot even see the goal or comprehend the purpose. In the Sanctuary of the Soul -- "the Secret Place of the Most High," the Psalmist calls it -- he who recognises the inspiring challenge of the Higher Hope is safe.

Hope, inseparably joined to Faith and Love, is no weak suppliant, no pleading seeker to escape responsibility. Hope urges no remission of the sins of selfishness but challenges experience to bring forth opportunity, so that the consequences of wrong action may be met and lessons mastered. Responsibility is Hope's proud Gonfalon. No blame of others, no attempt to justify wrong-doing by the plea that others did the same, or worse, no self-pity and no self-righteousness can live within Hope's realm, where all the consequences of the past are bravely met and, moment after moment, thought on thought and deed on deed, the foundations of the future are deliberately laid.

Vain regrets and vain desires all vanish in the light of Hope. Mere personal ambitions, sloth, inertia, and jealousy all cease. The grander vision of the spirally ascending march of spiritual evolution so absorbs the thought that every word and deed assume new values and are governed by a higher motive. Health responds. The Law of Karma may impose conditions that may not be avoided, but Hope gives royal courage and supplies the strength with which to meet them -- strength, and the assurance that a Universal Brotherhood will be the better for one Soul's experience well met and triumphed over.

The only selfishness permitted in the realm of Hope is self-watchfulness, self-discipline, self-control, with one unselfish end in view: that we may not harm others or neglect one opportunity to serve the whole world wisely. Pride of achievement becomes as offensive in ourselves as false humility, or as a loathsome habit, as soon as Hope reveals to us the limitless eternity of spiritual evolution; for true achievement, though it satisfies, impels to further effort; though it thrills with proof of power and responsibility, it lays bare need for self-regeneration never previously dreamed of.

Old-age, illness, and adversity are transient and not discouraging incidents when the Higher Law is recognised and Hope reveals how limitless and universal are our opportunities, how grand our destiny, and how each spiritual conquest of the self contributes to the evolution of the Universal Brotherhood. No thought is lost; no effort made to lessen the anguish of one individual is made in vain; each spiritual thought admitted into consciousness is added to the common store and helps in the regeneration of the world.

The lower, sensual, blind hope is never satisfied and never can be, for it seeks contentment in a rearrangement of the evils that provide its impulse; it is ever looking to find happiness in some conclusion and to reach a state of 'thus far and no further' in which the lower nature may indulge itself unchallenged by the Soul. It presupposes a beginning and an end; it assumes that justice is not inevitable; it supposes that material comfort and material success are the purpose of life and the goal, not only of all energy, but of religion. When it accepts, to save itself from tiresome creed and ritual observance, the less restricting view of evolution, it excites itself with what it thinks is new-found freedom, casts all self-discipline aside, and gives rein to the self-indulgence that convention hitherto had held in check. There is no wisdom and no safety in the lower hope, nor any peace.

But to the Higher Hope each new discovery of Universal Law is spiritual healing and a trumpet-call to rise to higher vision yet, uncluttered by the rubbish of the lower senses. Knowing there is no beginning and no end, discerning the ascending, ever-satisfying, ever-challenging, and infinitely various delight of self-directed evolution, true Hope springs eternal, brave and buoyant, Truth her watchword, Brotherhood her breath, the Ancient Wisdom her aspiring wings.