Rosicrucian Writings Online

When the Shadows Come

By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest October 1933]
I WAS very much interested in an editorial article that appeared in the August, 1933, issue of that excellent British publication called "The Occult Review." Its editorials are always interesting and learned, and occasionally touch upon some of the very deep principles of mysticism.
In this editorial the editor comments upon the fact that there is a type of "malaise" which is prevalent among people who are making progress along the path of spiritual or mystical development, and whose inner lives are "vivid and intense". I am happy that he used the terms vivid and intense because I think that those terms best describe the class of individuals who are most susceptible to the experience of this strange and peculiar emotion.
Many students who have made some progress on the path of spiritual and mystical development have commented on the fact that as their lives became more attuned with the spiritual and mystical principles surrounding our existence, the more intense and the more vivid seem to be their reactions to both the joys and the sorrows of life. It is a common expression for the truly devout and serious student of mysticism to say that one of the first and most noticeable manifestations of a change taking place within, is that of a more keen appreciation, a more sympathetic understanding of the sorrows and sadnesses of human existence, while at the same time the joys and lighter things of life seem to quicken a whole-hearted response from within to a greater degree than ever before. As one dearly beloved student expressed it, the sunlight dancing with its beams upon the floor of his study seemed to be playing a fantasy of light and harmony for his amusement, and he felt as happy as a child in watching it, and even the laughter of a little babe becomes a captivating, enthralling, and dynamic influence, while the mere thought of ignorance and mental darkness in the lives of human beings seem to bring an overpowering depression. Such persons live the fullness of life in an additional and mental sense. They swing back and forth like a pendulum from the extreme degree of sorrow to the extreme degree of happiness. They are easily moved from one plane and one degree of emotional response to another. This is because their inner lives are truly vivid and intense and filled with a fullness of soul experience.
But the editor of this British magazine also calls attention to something that is generally held in secrecy among those who have advanced on the Path. He speaks frankly about the inevitable portion of the mystic's journey when the sun seems to set and the day seems to end, and the footsteps of the student lead him gradually into the night-time of his onward march. The editor says that this period of deepening shadows is often called by various names, and more frequently referred to, in the language of the Christian mystics, as the "dark night." Among those who are not Christians and among the orientals especially, this period is known as the journey through the shadows. And in some of the Rosicrucian documents it is referred to as the Obscure Night. It is true that this period sometimes lasts only a few weeks, and at other times it lasts for a few months, and sometimes even a year. It is this period to which may be applied the term malaise.
I want to quote further from the excellent editorial as follows: "It is characteristic, however, that whether of long or short duration, few, if any, pass through it without complaint, and no amount of reassurance by another avails the sufferer. It is impossible to convince him that, Au Fond, all is well.... Who is there in whom the inner life has reached any appreciable stage of development who has not experienced that numbness and deadness within, which takes away all zest for those matters which, in the ordinary way, one would consider most worthwhile? ... Somehow, however, the true disciple struggles manfully through these periods of inner darkness without entirely losing touch with the inner certainty that he is on the right track; that no matter how apathetic and even averse he may feel, deep down in his heart he knows that the shadow that falls upon him is cast from without."
Here indeed is the essential point for constant consideration by the disciple. I do not agree with the editor in thinking that all disciples, and especially those who enter the shadows for the first time, always know or always feel convinced that the shadow falls upon them from without. It has been our experience in assisting thousands of students along the path that at this critical time we must constantly reassure the disciple that most of the shadow is not caused by inner conditions. And even in many cases where there is the belief that the shadow is cast from external conditions, or causes, there is occasionally an accompanying belief that the shadows and the darkness emanate from some evil source being personally directed toward the good and welfare of the disciple. It is at this point of the disciple's journey on the path that he is easily tempted to give unnecessary and often exaggerated consideration to the possible existence of that imaginary power attributed to Black Magic.
It is necessary for the proper guidance of the disciple to have him understand that the darkness is of Cosmic decree, and is good in its intent and purpose, and is, truly, an experience through which the disciple must pass as part of his initiation and development.
It is true that at times a part of the shadow is often a condition that, wrongly interpreted as being a part of the shadow, is traceable to sheer ill-health, or to physical conditions within the human body. It is for this reason that the Rosicrucian system of instruction and guidance along the path places so much emphasis upon the importance of self-treatment, of good health, and a proper knowledge of the causes of disease and their psychical or mystical cure. It is perhaps for the same reason that some oriental schools and systems have placed emphasis upon the belief that the disciple on the path should refrain from the eating of meat, the drinking of certain liquids, the partaking of certain foods, and the indulgence in certain functions and emotions of the human system. A belief in celibacy, restricted diet, the practice of deep breathing and various other special features have found their way into some oriental systems solely as a means of preserving not only good health, but a large amount of that creative power within the human body which is supposed to prevent any form of illness, or physical depletion. But it has been proven in the long experience of Western world adepts that many of these restrictions in diet and suppressions of natural indulgences have tended to create an abnormal physical condition that makes the individual as readily susceptible to this condition called malaise as would any external, Cosmic, or spiritual cause. For this reason the universal and general prohibition against the eating of meat, and other mortal or natural indulgences, has been eliminated from all of the most modern and most efficient systems of mystical guidance. The individual must be considered, rather than the class, and there are few individuals indeed who require such strict reforms, and such prohibited courses in life as were outlined for the mass in the ancient beliefs. Normal health is all that is required for the disciple, rather than an abnormal state of supposed pureness and extreme spirituality.
During this period of the Obscure Night there is a sense of unrest, of doubt, and speculative inquiry. The mind becomes indifferent at times regarding all things mystical, spiritual, and occult, while at another moment the mind seems to be keenly analytical and critical, and finds highly colored, and artificially inspired reasons for doubting the sincerity and worthiness, and the other benefits in any other course of study along spiritual and mystical lines. The very teachers who have been the inspiration of the student suddenly appear as doubtful characters to the mind of the disciple. Their good motives are questioned and friendship seems to be of less value than heretofore, and the voice of the tempter seems especially kind and thoughtful. There comes also a sense of depressed spirit of loneliness and inferiority, or there may suddenly arise the grotesque figure of superiority with a greatly exaggerated ego trying to proclaim its super-qualities and incontestable right to look with disdain on all that has been learned, and upon all who claim to be guides and directors along the Path.
It is during this period that many disciples arbitrarily stop their progress, halt on the wayside of the path, seek contacts with others who have also halted and who are dwelling in the shadows, and finding confirmation of their doubts and false beliefs in the experiences of others, come to the erroneous conclusion that their present attitude is correct, and resign from all uplift contacts, abandon their studies, and throw themselves into the deepest shadows of the black night of despondency. There are some who find what they interpret as a relief from the malaise by taking this reverse attitude and abandoning their journey. They feel that they have taken themselves out of a deplorable situation, and have brought themselves some new degree of freedom. In resigning their studies and disassociating themselves from their school of thought or help, they boast of the fact that they wish to be free souls and can no longer find happiness and peace in the associations and in the proscribed and prescribed studies to which they have been devoted. It would seem that the momentary effect of the change that they arbitrarily bring in their lives misleads them into thinking that they have thrown off some shackles and have broken the bonds that held them as slaves, but we know only too well that this false interpretation is quickly followed by a greater degree of despondency and unrest, and that the condition which follows is pitiful. Here indeed comes the time for the test of man's vanity and a trial of his exaggerated ego.
It is at this time that the truly despondent and truly helpless disciple finds that he needs more than ever the companionship and guidance that he has recently abandoned. But rather than admit the error of his ways, the poorness of his judgment, the submission to the voice of the tempter, and the weakness of his own spiritual fortitude, he refuses to write to his teacher, his leader, his guide, and his associates and ask for readmission to their companionship and reinstatement in the ranks of those who are making the grade. Sometimes years pass before these persons come not only to a full realization of the error they made in abandoning their progress during the hours of the shadows, but the weakness they are displaying in hesitating to step boldly back on the path again and bring an end to the continuously darkening hours. There is always great joy in the hearts of leaders and teachers when one lost disciple is redeemed or voluntarily returns to the path. There is no obscure darkness and no shadows on the path half as depressing as the period of melancholia that envelopes the student who is tempted by the conditions of the shadow to abandon the path and free himself from the influences constantly urging him from within and from without. Once the inner self has become conscious of the path and has tested all its joys and sorrows, and has unfolded and developed through the changing emotions and swaying influences, it is cast into the depths of greatest darkness and the abyss of constant turmoil by its disassociation from the attunement and contacts that mean so much to it.
Those who remain firm and steadfast upon the path, however, all find that the Obscure Night is approaching the magnificent dawn that lies just beyond the borderline. It would appear that in accordance with the determination, the sincerity, and devotion of the disciple, are the hours of the Obscure Night shortened and brought to an end. Only those who remain firm and harken to the assurances of their guides and teachers ever come to realize that during this passage of the night one of the greatest battles of the personal self is being fought and won. As the editor so properly states in his editorial: "In the thick of the fight the sufferer fails to see that the last dregs of self are being purged.... Not until the feet have trodden many a long mile on the Path is it possible to realize in consciousness the elusory nature of those moods which assail the aspirant, but so long as he refuses to be deflected from his true internal course such trials are really a source of strength."
To students young and old, and those new or long upon the path, let this be a note of warning. As we journey along life's path as human beings aside from any of our special courses of study, we pass through days and nights of experience. The course of a normal life from birth to transition is filled with daytimes of bright and happy experiences, and nighttimes of sadness. Neither wealth, worldly power, social position, nor any human or earthly creation can prevent the changing experiences in the course of life. It is but natural, therefore, to expect that on the path of development there will come a time when the first day's journey will come to an end, and the sun will set for awhile and the nighttime shadows will gather to obscure the way, and darken our sight. The disciple should have no more reason for abandoning his course in life at this time than he has of abandoning his existence on earth when the shadows of the sky become deeper and the close of day brings obscurity to his worldly sight. For, just as the tempters and agencies of evil gather together and reside in the dark places of the nighttime of our worldly course, so the invisible tempters and agencies of esoteric evil reside in the shadows of the spiritual night. They seek to lure the devout one from the Path, and to tempt him into the byways. They urge him to abandon his direct course. They influence his thinking and his judgment. They offer a brighter light guaranteed to bring a brighter day.
They speak glibly of freedom of the soul. They suggest that the independent way, the new way, the open, virgin, untrammeled path through an imaginary country of unexplored marvels will be the richest in its rewards. They point out the trials and tribulations that have already been endured, and enlarge them into mountains. They speak words of doubt regarding the sincerity, and the goodness of those who are your companions and your guides. They elaborate upon the failures you may have had, and they foster the little doubts that may have come to you, and mature them into enormous size. But they never explain why they come to you as emissaries of greater rewards and richer benefits and yet dwell only in the shadows. They never explain why they are not found and met with in the highlights of life, and in the daylight of your journey. They do not reveal themselves as part of the shadow, but leave you to discover this after you have joined with them in their work of creating unhappiness, unrest, and discontent. For this reason your eyes should be kept looking forward, anticipating the dawn that lies beyond the night, and your ears and heart listening to the voices of those who sing their songs and spell their themes of inspiration in the daytime, and in the glorious light that precedes their false, ever obscure night.

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