Rosicrucian Writings Online

Am I Making Progress?

Installment No. 1
By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest November 1932]
THIS is to be a personal little talk with those members of our organization or others who are studying any system of personal development and progress along the paths that lead to a higher and better life.
I would like to have you feel that this is a little round-table talk right here in my sanctum, and that I have invited you who are of this type of mind to come and join the circle for a little while.
I am addressing myself particularly to the man or woman who has devoted a year or more, perhaps five or ten, to a system of cultural development that includes the development of psychic faculties of the inner self. I am especially speaking to those who after sincere study and practice of the teachings, whatever they may be, and after giving full devotion and interest to the work wonder whether they are making the progress that they should make.
The question arises as to how to judge the progress of the student who is earnestly struggling along the path and hoping to achieve the great goal. Such students believe that the masters or teachers may have psychic methods by which such progress may be judged, but they wonder if there is not some other way that does not include any intangible element, and which is more positive to them.
In the first place, all cultural and mental development is essentially of the inner self, and we can find it in the outer self only when it manifests from the within to the without. I might say it is like the power that is resident within a stick of dynamite. You can not ordinarily determine what that power may be, especially not by any examination of the material, outer self of the stick, nor can you determine it by the tests that are in no way a challenge to the power within. Dropping the dynamite on the floor is not a challenge to its locked up energy. It is not one of the keys that unlocks that energy. Hitting the dynamite with a stick or stone is not a way to unlock the power within. Chemically testing it or watching to see whether it changes its color or size will give no information regarding the real secret that is so intangibly hidden in its chemical elements. It is only when a proper test, a proper key, or a proper challenge is applied to dynamite that its real nature is revealed.
The same is very true regarding psychic, mental, cultural, or mystical development. It makes little difference by what name you call it, or what system or course of study is followed. All good systems tend to build up that mighty reserve of power and intellectual comprehension and direction that is possible to put within the human consciousness. There is no way to test the mental capacity of a man in regard to his ability to weigh great matters and balance them, analyze them, and reduce them to a basis of comparison, and then render a judgment, except by a test of reality where he is put face to face with such matters. There is no way to tell whether an eminent chemist is capable of solving a chemical problem unless an actual problem is put before him in all sincerity. We cannot tell what a great musician will do under inspiration unless he is actually inspired with something from within, or from above, that is compatible with the highest development of music within him. To ask him to play at a dance party and play some lively music would be no test of his development as a great musician and student under a great master.
Many of the psychic abilities and powers resident within man are conservative in nature and intended to be conserved for certain specific purposes. The creative power that can be built up in a man or woman is not intended by nature to be carelessly spent and exhausted in mere pleasures of the flesh and indulgences that are insincere and of no real value to either the man or the Cosmic source of all power. Many of the psychic abilities within man are limited in form of manifestation to certain channels of expression, and until these channels are opened and an impelling force attracts them and pushes them into motion they do not manifest.
In these, for instance, is an invaluable power of mental or psychic development, and when properly used it is of the utmost value. But it would be of little value to man, and certainly a great detriment if that faculty were to attempt to manifest itself constantly. If, for instance, all day long this faculty would tend to impress upon the outer consciousness of each human being a sense or premonition of that which is about to occur, every moment of such a person's life would be filled with the vague impressions of portending events, and such persons would anticipate the ringing of every bell, the coming and going of every person, the incidents of unimportant matters, hourly and momentarily. Our mental poise and ability to relax and rest, and our time for thinking and judgment would be upset, and the mind would become an unbalanced mass of involved mental impressions, and soon the value of intuition would become negative and we would prefer its total absence.
The creative, healing forces within the psychic self that are constantly being built through the proper courses of study and exercises do not constitute powers that can be played with momentarily and with indifference as one would play with a watch chain or a finger ring in periods of nervous relaxation. It is only when there is a real call from the constructive processes of the human body that the creative powers within man release themselves and go about their business in a serious way, knowing that the task before them is an important one and a real challenge to them, and not a mere test or skeptical inquiry as to their possibilities.
While the health of the human being remains good and the constructive processes are drawing in a conservative way upon the creative powers and maintaining an upbuilding of the human body, there is no real and surprising manifestation of the forces that are being created within the body, and we may even doubt that such forces have been augmented by our studies. When illness, or an emergency such as an accident or sudden operation comes upon us and there is a real call and need for the powers we have been building up, we discover then to our satisfaction that we have a reserve power and increased ability to meet the condition that we did not have before.
The same is true in regard to the psychic attunement with the Cosmic. Here is something that is extremely intangible and indefinite in a well, normal, healthy, busy person. The man who is a banker, and goes about his banking business either as a clerk or director of the bank from hour to hour giving all of his thought as he should to the business at hand, and then goes to his meals and eats normally and properly, and in the evening or mornings takes the proper amount of exercise and indulges in wholesome pleasures and happiness, is very likely to be almost totally unconscious of the degree of development that has taken place within him. Why should he feel his Cosmic attunement like something hanging on his arm, or a weight on his back, or a cross that he has to carry? Why should it be of such a nature that he should always be conscious of it, and know it is something he always has with him?
Years ago it was generally said by the medical professions that a good constitution, or a good heart, was the mainstay of life, and it would tend to save the life in any extreme emergency. Men who are fearful of operations, or strains of any kind, were told that they had a good heart; therefore, they need not worry that when the time came the heart would do its duty and maintain life for them. Now should such a person who has a good heart be conscious of it all the time? Or should he feel that because his heart does not jump out before him and beat so strongly that he feels its beating in every part of his body, he hasn't a strong heart, or is lacking in heart strength? Would you say that such a person is arguing rationally when he says that because his heart has not manifested itself to him in any particular way that he doubts its existence, or that it is any more than a normal heart and is of doubtful emergency power?
If we were always as aware of our perfect normal health as we are of the slightest illness or abnormal condition in the body, we might be better able to judge when we are enjoying the benefits and blessings of health. If we were as keenly alive and appreciative of our good fortune and beneficent situations as we are of the unfortunate ones, we might be better judges of the changes that take place in our lives. When the student on the path is building up an increased degree of attunement with the Cosmic, and is bringing an influx of vital and re-creative energy into his body that is keeping him well and preventing breakdowns and illnesses, he is hardly aware of the magnificent blessing that is being poured upon him and takes his good health for granted, and in fact may not be conscious of the excellent condition and increased vitality that has come to him.
This is due to the fact that we measure our situation in life not by the fortunate and normal things that make up the incidents of the day, week, month, and year, but the unfortunate and unpleasant ones. We look upon the peaceful, tranquil, healthy life as a positive standard of conditions more or less to be expected, and it is only when certain things to which we have become accustomed, or certain things which we anticipate are lacking or absent, that we become aware of any change that is taking place in our lives. In other words, we have adopted negative conditions as a standard or a gauge by which to estimate what is going on in our lives. We know when we are [un]fortunate; we know that an unfortunate change is taking place when things that we have wanted or things which we possess are lacking. We know that our health is not proper when we find we are ill; we find that we are going backward in our place in life when the lack or absence of things increases. When desirable conditions are on the increase we take these more or less complacently, and assume that they are merely normal, and not extraordinary and above and beyond the normal.
Many students on the path who have not been keenly alive to the changes that have taken place within the body through their psychic development and Cosmic attunement have been forced to realize the situation through emergencies that have been rather serious. One student interested in aviation had a very serious catastrophe in which many bones were broken, and many muscles and tissues were cut, torn, and injured. The physician in the hospital concluded at once that both of his legs would have to be amputated just above the knee. He was in too weak a condition to protest, but one of our representatives did protest, asking that the Cosmic be given a chance to help him. The physician insisted that only a miracle could cause the tissues and bones and other parts to grow together and heal without infection and blood poisoning. The plea of our representative was listened to, however, and the physician agreed to delay a time and watch carefully what changes took place. His limbs were placed in plaster casts for a few days and then examined and the blood tested. Apparently, everything was going better than they anticipated, and the plaster casts were replaced and eventually all the bones and tissues healed after being properly set and adjusted. The physician frankly stated that his blood contained the most remarkable degree of creative energy and wholesome chemical elements that they had ever seen in a man of his age. It was then that this member realized and keenly appreciated what had been taking place within his body for several years.
I know of scores of cases that are similar to this where the Cosmic attunement and increased degree of vital energy through the continued psychic changes that had been taking place saved a life in a crucial test. But there was no way for this student to test what had been taking place within him until a real challenge was presented that automatically and in a perfectly proper way called forth all of the reserve power and creative energy that was there.
There are many unusual mental tests where a real challenge existed, such as the young man that was stranded at sea and had no means of communication who concentrated throughout the night that his mother might have a vision of him in a small motor boat floating on the ocean. The mother did receive such a picture and phoned the police, and they turned their search toward the sea instead of inland where they believed he had journeyed and lost his way. No amount of superficial or artificial testing of his ability to mentally transmit a picture would have ever given him the perfect manifestation that was given to him when a real need occurred. He probably would have smiled at any statement from the master of his class or his teacher or instructor regarding his progress in such psychic matters, and was probably unaware of his ability to do the very thing that he needed most in such an emergency.
There are little ways in which the student may recognize his progress if he will take the time to indulge in self-analysis from an unbiased and unprejudiced point of view, but he must lift his outer self away from the inner self and separate the two in the thought world while he is making such an analysis. He must view himself as from an outside point, if he would see himself properly in such an examination. First he must ask himself whether all of the material things of life, all of the indulgences of the flesh and of the objective mind, or all the pastimes, the small amusements, interesting experiences and amusing incidents that kept him entertained in the years that have passed, are still as appealing to him as they ever were. If he finds that some of these things now seem foolish, a useless expenditure of time, a wasteful expenditure of money, or childlike or sordid, or beneath his dignity, then he may be sure that he has made some progress in cultural development. Then he should examine the nature of his reading in the years that have passed, and note whether the same form of reading attracts his attention today and can hold his attention for minutes or hours. If he finds that there is a change in this regard, and that only more intellectual, more instructive, more peaceful, more constructive reading can interest him, then he may be sure that he has made some progress in the intellectual field.
Then he must look back at the problems of life that used to annoy him and bring fear, doubt, concern, anguish, or perhaps depression into his life. If he finds that today he views these unpleasant things of life with a broader view and sees no reason in any of them to become depressed or fearful, or hesitant, and can cast them aside as inconsequential, feeling sure that he can turn each of them into the right channel and bring about the desirable results in spite of the conditions that surround them, then he may be sure he has made some progress in the mastership of his understanding of the realness and falseness of life's incidents.
If he finds, through his analysis, that he is attracted to a better class of people today than he used to be, that music of a better class appeals to him now, that pictures and stories of a better and higher class seem to fascinate him more than they ever did, then he can be sure that he is getting more in harmony with Cosmic law and Cosmic beauty. If he finds that his own attitude is more cheerful, hopeful, expectant, than it has been in years gone by, then he may count himself as really making fine progress toward the goal of his ambitions, as well as fine progress in the mastership of life.
A review of one's health alone, or one's financial condition alone will not constitute a proper examination. Such an examination is very apt to be undertaken at a time when there is doubt in the mind as to whether any progress has been made. It is not likely that any such examination would be made when all the evidence around one was convincing in its assurance that progress has been made. Therefore, when examinations are usually made there is some cause for doubt, and this cause may be poor health, a depression in financial conditions, a lack of employment, unpleasant surroundings, or some one thing of a temporary or passing nature. To take such incidents then as a standard or gauge of the progress that has been made, and to assume that because these unpleasant things are still possible that no progress has been made is to deceive yourself.
I can never forget one of the passages in Jacob Boehme's life. He was only a poor cobbler, but a good one, and his mind constantly dwelt on mystical philosophy while he worked on the shoes in his little village. As his mental and spiritual view-point of life rose higher and higher he felt the urge to speak of these things to those who came to his shop, and gradually many assembled there at different times in the evenings, and many came during the day, to listen to him. His discussions became so frequent, so profound, and so illuminating that more came to hear him talk and express his ideas than to patronize his business. Then he said to himself that he was growing poor, and each month saw less business and more talk, and the old scoundrel of a tempter that is ready to whisper into the ear of every human being and discourage him tried to impress Jacob with the fact that if he continued to soar in heavenly realms with his spiritual illumination and great philosophy he might just as well expect to go to the poorhouse and be a failure in life.
Fortunately for all of us, Jacob did not measure his progress in life by his financial income, or he would have destroyed his manuscripts which he has left for all of us, and would have brought an end to his mental explorations in the spiritual world and devoted himself more thoroughly to his cobbling business.
By what standard are you measuring your progress in life? What does life itself mean to you? If you were upon a sinking ship out in the ocean, or in a burning building on land and all escape from seeming destruction appeared impossible, would you not do what millions have done under similar circumstances and offer all that you possess, all of your worldly goods, and blessings, in exchange for life itself? Would you not willingly say to any person who could rescue you that you would give even the clothes on your back, all your jewels, all your money and material things, in exchange for an escape from your dilemma? If that is what life means to you and it is so good, so great, and so grand that even at this very moment you would be willing to sacrifice every material thing you have in order to preserve your life, then surely you must expect that that life is going to become of great value to you in the future. If in consideration for your life you would be willing to start life over again without the slightest material possession, then you should consider yourself fortunate now in the possession of any material thing and look upon the life you have, the freedom you have, and the privileges you have as the greatest things that the universe can give you. From this point of view it is immaterial how much progress you make financially, or how much progress you make socially, politically, or in any other sense so long as you are making progress in the only way that progress can be counted; namely, in a keen, vital consciousness of having life within your body.
Would you say that you had made great progress in your studies and in your development along the path if tomorrow you were to become a millionaire by the gift of great sums of money through the kindness of someone or the transition of a relative? Hardly would this be true because we have millionaires in this country and elsewhere who have never stepped upon the path of development, and have no idea of what such development and progress means. In fact, they do not have in their entire body the development you may have in one hand. Would you say if you were in perfect health without a single ache or ailment that you had made marvelous progress on the path? That could hardly be true either for this country is filled with healthy beings who have no more interest in self development, psychic progress, self-mastership, and similar subjects than has an infant in its crib. Many of them would not even know what it is that you are interested in.
Would you say that a freedom from worries, cares, anxieties, responsibilities, debts, obligations, duties, time clocks, labor, etc., would indicate that you had made great progress? Then I want to tell you that in many of the big city parks throughout the year you can find men lying upon the benches or under the trees asleep, or you can find them along automobile highways drowsing by the hour without any cares, responsibilities, obligations, debts, anxieties, labor, or anything else, and they do not know where they are going and care less. Each day is the same to them, and they live the hobo life with complete happiness and have no more understanding of what you and I mean by progress on the path than has the tree under which they sleep.
Your progress cannot be measured by any such standards. There is a time and a place for each challenge and each test, and there will be a time and a place for each demonstration and manifestation of the development that is going on within you. Your first duty and obligation to yourself is to continue with your desires and efforts toward progress. Your duty is clearly defined. Having once started upon the path, neither must you doubt nor question how and where the progress is being made or advancement is being attained so long as you have your face turned toward the symbol of light, life, and love; and so long as your journey faithfully toward the distant horizon, which invisible as it may be you know is the goal of your desires, you can be sure that you are making progress, and that you are advancing. The ship on the sea at night, and even in the day, sees nothing of the distant horizon toward which it is plowing its way steadily, unrelentingly, and with such a determination that not all of the passengers nor desires of friends could persuade the captain to alter the course. Yet he sees not the goal or port toward which he is moving, but rests calmly in the knowledge that so long as he points his face and the wheel of his ship toward the invisible port and plows his way toward it, he is making the progress that he should make, and that when the time comes for him to prove that his efforts have been fruitful there will be ample proof, and ample manifestation.
You are the captain of your ship, and you should not expect that untoward incidents, unpleasant things, negative situations, abnormal manifestations are the gauge or guide of your progress. Let faith sustain you and determination move you with hope as the light to guide you, and you will find that an uncertain though eventual degree of progress is made at the close of your life that has been perhaps the preventative of many ills and trials and the cure of many serious conditions of which you have not been aware because they have never occurred.

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