By Patrick Horn (“Rishi”)
The shift from sensate focus to impersonal Truth is a difficult task, and mankind generally favors phenomenalism and error-as-habit. She seeks pleasure and fears death. She is ruled by desire. She discovers the joys of the world are impermanent and suffers failure of will, changes of fortune, loss of friends and family, sickness, and old age. There are two attitudes toward these unavoidable problems. The first is nihilism: rejection of value, meaning, and purpose; iconoclastic doubt and extreme skepticism; denial of authority and the possibility of Knowledge; selfishness and despair. This is a dominant perspective in the contemporary age. The second attitude is the search for the Real amidst fleeting appearances.
The Quest for Freedom plays out in both the fields of religion and science. In the mythic imagination, mankind degenerated to ignorance and chaos from a past state of perfection. Swami Vivekananda refers to the Biblical legend of the Flood, which appears also in the stories of the Hindus, Chinese, Babylonians, and Egyptians. The Masonic tradition supposedly preserves a pre-diluvian original knowledge corrupted, lost, and partially recovered. According to Western esotericism, when mankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, the Council of Immortals saw that the land was filled with violence. Humans were arrogant, ambitious, and murderous fools. Creation was wicked, overpopulated, and noisy. First, a flood nearly destroyed the world; then Noah cursed his grandsons into slavery to their Uncles. With one language and the same words, they spread across the face of the earth and built upon the Plains a city with a tower reaching for Heaven. The Council of Immortals frustrated understanding and co-operation among men by confusing their language. The world was spoiled by lust and greed.
Science, in contrast, observes physical motion by inductive empiricism and posits metaphysical principles of Existence in deductive reasoning and analogy. The apparent universe is limited by space, time, and causality; forms evolve and dissolve in cyclical processes of creation, preservation, and destruction. Most people identify with the body, but this is evanescent from the perspective of the elemental existence. The atoms, molecules, and cells of the body are constantly changing, yet this aggregate of matter does not represent the authentic self. Swamiji suggests the gross physical body is an effect animated by a “bright body,” which is equivalent to the personality in the dream-state and transmigrates after death. In turn, this subtle form is animated by the causal state, the soul (or, Atman) which is equivalent to the undivided, unchanging, infinite Spirit (or, Brahman). This is the Real Nature of Man.
The aim is character transformation to attain the vision of God. We must be bold. Knowledge is not the Experience. The goal is to know the Truth and live it. We must dare to fill the mind with the highest ideals. Swamiji insists that society must be molded to Truth made practical. He says, “society has to pay homage to Truth or die.” If altruism is impossible, it is better to live in the forest.