The Law Of Duty, From: The Laws Of The Higher Life, Annie Besant, F.T.S., 1903

BROTHERS: IN our talk of yesterday, we came to certain definite conclusions. We studied the nature of Law, and we found that a larger Consciousness than the waking brain consciousness of man exists in each of us. We saw that if that Consciousness was to manifest itself, then it was necessary that the senses should be utterly controlled, and the mind should be under restraint. So far we went in our study of the Higher Life yesterday. Now we enter on another stage of our study, and we have to consider how a man should guide his conduct, in order that in him the Higher Consciousness may manifest itself in all its power. We want to see the stages of the preparation and to realize what each of us can do, now in the position that we are, to prepare ourselves for that divine unfolding, for that blossoming of the bud of Consciousness, which is growing slowly within each of us. And in order that we may follow the subject well, let us define one or two words and expressions that we all have to use throughout.

First, what is meant by the Higher Life? I have used it in the widest sense of the term, for all manifestations of life above the physical. It would include the manifestation of man in the various worlds invisible to the eyes of the flesh-regions of which we speak by using the word “planes” — astral plane; mânasic plane, buddhic plane, atmic plane, and whatever in the vast universe may lie beyond.

What do we mean by “spiritual”? All manifestations of the Higher Life as thus defined are not necessarily spiritual. We must separate, in our thought, the form in which Consciousness is embodied and the Consciousness itself. Nothing that is of the form is spiritual in its nature. The life of form on every plane belongs to the prâkritic manifestation, and not to the spiritual. The manifestation of the life in form may be on the astral plane, or on the mânasic plane, but it is no more spiritual there than it is on the physical plane. Everywhere the prâkritic manifestation is purely phenomenal, and nothing that is phenomenal can be said to be spiritual. That is a matter to be remembered. Otherwise we shall blunder sorely in our studies; and we shall not choose rightly the means by which the spiritual is to evolve. It matters not whether the life of form be lived on a lower or a higher plane-stone, vegetable, animal, man or Deva. In so far as it is prâkritic, phenomenal, in its nature, it has nothing to do with that which can claim the name of the Spiritual. A man may develop astral or mânasic Siddhis, he may possess an eye that can see far into space, far abroad over the universe, he may hear the singing of the Devas and listen to the chanting in Svarga, but all that is phenomenal, all that is transitory. The Spiritual and the Eternal is not of the life of form.

What then is the Spiritual? It is alone the life of the Consciousness which recognises Unity, which sees one Self in everything and everything in the Self. The spiritual life is the life which looking into the infinite number of phenomena, pierces through the veil of Maya and sees the One and the Eternal within each changing form. To know the Self, to love the Self, to realise the Self, that and that alone is Spirituality, even as to see the Self everywhere alone is Wisdom. All outside that is ignorance; all outside that is unspiritual. If once you understand this definition, you will find yourself compelled to choose not the phenomenal but the real, to choose the life of the Spirit as distinguished from the life of the form, though on the highest plane. You will be compelled to choose definite methods for evolving the life of the Spirit, and you will search for the knowledge of the law which shall enable the Consciousness to unfold, so that it may recognise its unity with all Consciousnesses everywhere, so that every form shall be dear not for the sake of the form but for the sake of the Self, which is the life and reality of the form. Remember how Yâjnavalkya taught Maitreyî, when she desired to know this same spiritual part of the Higher Life, and he said: “Not for the sake of the husband is the husband dear, but for the sake of the Self is the husband dear; not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear, but for the sake of the Self is the wife dear;” and so on from one thing to another, to child, lover, friend, ending at last with the life that stretches beyond the physical: “Not for the sake of the Devas are the Devas dear, but for the sake of the Self the Devas are dear.”

That is the note of the Spirit. All is in the Self. The One is recognized everywhere. How shall we attain it, how shall we, blinded by matter, know it?

Note that the first great step towards the attainment of this realisation is the Law of Duty. Let us pause a moment to understand why the Law of Duty is the first truth which a man must obey, if he wishes to rise to the spiritual life. You find beings around us, belonging to the higher worlds, who are not spiritual, but who exercise enormous forces, who energise nature, bending matter to their will: mighty beings of tremendous power who range the world around us, some helping forward evolution by inspiring noble thought and high endeavour; others who are also helping forward evolution, but who do it by striving to hinder the progress of man and to bewilder him, in order that man may learn to plant his foot firmly, and by struggling against the wrong may become perfect in the right. Both these sides are of the divine manifestation; you cannot have the light without the darkness, nor progress without resistance; there is no evolution without the force that works against it. It is the force that works against evolution that gives stability to progress, and makes possible the higher growth of man…

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