Monday, July 14, 2014
When speaking on different subjects, I have noticed how difficult it is to pass on one's understanding, even of the most ordinary subject and to a person well known to me. Our language is too poor for full and exact descriptions. Later I found that this lack of understanding between one man and another is a
mathematically ordered phenomenon as precise as the multiplication table. It depends in general on the so-called "psyche" of the people concerned, and in particular on the state of their psyche at any given moment.
The truth of this law can be verified at every step. In order to be understood by another man, it is not only necessary for the speaker to know how to speak but for the listener to know how to listen. This is why I can say that if I were to speak in a way I consider exact, everybody here, with very few exceptions, would think I was crazy. But since at present I have to speak to my audience as it is, and my audience will have to listen to me, we must first establish the possibility of a common understanding.
In the course of our talk we must gradually mark the sign posts of a productive conversation. All I wish to suggest now is that you try to look at things and phenomena around you, and especially at yourselves, from a point of view, from an angle, that may be different from what is usual or natural to you.
Only to look, for to do more is possible only with the wish and cooperation of the listener, when the listener ceases to listen passively and begins to do, that is, when he moves into an active state.
Very often in conversation with people, one hears the direct or implied view that man as we meet with him in ordinary life could be regarded as almost the center of the universe, the "crown of creation," or at any rate that he is a large and important entity; that his possibilities are almost unlimited, his powers almost infinite. But even with such views there are a number of reservations: they say that, for this, exceptional conditions are necessary, special circumstances, inspiration, revelation and so on.
However, if we examine this conception of "man," we see at once that it is made up of features which belong not to one man but to a number of known or supposed separate individuals. We never meet such a man in real life, neither in the present nor as a historical personage in the past. For every man has his own weaknesses and if you look closely the mirage of greatness and power disintegrates.
But the most interesting thing is not that people clothe others in this mirage but that, owing to a peculiar feature of their own psyche, they transfer it to themselves, if not in its entirety, at least in part as a reflection.
And so, although they are almost nonentities, they imagine themselves to be that collective type or not far removed from it.
But if a man knows how to be sincere with himself—not sincere as the word is usually understood, but mercilessly sincere —then, to the question "What are you?" he will not expect a comforting reply. So now, without waiting for you to come nearer to experiencing for yourselves what I am speaking about, I suggest that, in order to understand better what I mean, each of you should now ask himself the question "What
am I?" I am certain that 95 percent of you will be puzzled by this question and will answer with another one: "What do you mean?"
And this will prove that a man has lived all his life without asking himself this question, has taken for granted, as axiomatic, that he is "something," even something very valuable, something he has never questioned. At the same time he is unable to explain to another what this something is, unable to convey even any idea of it, for he himself does not know what it is. Is the reason he does not know because, in fact, this "something" does not exist but is merely assumed to exist? Is it not strange that people pay so little attention to themselves in
the sense of self-knowledge? Is it not strange with what dull complacency they shut their eyes to what they really are and spend their lives in the pleasant conviction that they represent something valuable? They fail to see the gailing emptiness hidden behind the highly painted façade created by their self-dlusion and do not realize that its value is purely conventional.
True, this is not always so. Not everyone looks at himself so superficially. There do exist enquiring minds, which long for the truth of the heart, seek it, strive to solve the problems set by life, try to penetrate to the essence of things and phenomena and to penetrate into themselves. If a man reasons and thinks soundly, no matter what path he follows in solving these problems, he must inevitably arrive back at himself, and begin with the solution of the problem of what he is himself and what his place is in the world around him. For without this knowledge, he will have no focal point in his search. Socrates' words "Know thyself" remain for all those who seek true knowledge and being.
I have just used a new word—"being." To make sure that we all understand the same thing by it, I shall have to say a few words in explanation.
We have just been questioning whether what a man thinks about himself corresponds to what he is in reality, and you have asked yourselves what you are. Here is a doctor, there an engineer, there an artist. Are they in reality what we think they are? Can we treat the personality of each one as identical with his profession, with the experience which that profession, or the preparation for it, has given him?
Every man comes into the world like a clean sheet of paper; and then the people and circumstances around him begin vying with each other to dirty this sheet and to cover it with writing. Education, the formation of morals, information we call knowledge—all feelings of duty, honor, conscience and so on—enter here. And they all claim that the methods adopted for grafting these shoots known as man's "personality" to the trunk are immutable and infallible. Gradually the sheet is dirtied, and the dirtier with so-called "knowledge" the sheet becomes, the cleverer the man is considered to be. The more writing there is in the place called "duty," the more honest the possessor is said to be; and so it is with everything. And the dirty sheet itself, seeing that people consider its "dirt" as merit, considers it valuable. This is an example of what we call "man," to which we often even add such words as talent and genius. Yet our "genius" will have his mood spoiled for the whole day if he does not find his slippers beside his bed when he wakes up in the morning.
A man is not free either in his manifestations or in his life.
He cannot be what he wishes to be and what he thinks he is. He is not like his picture of himself, and the words "man, the crown of creation" do not apply to him.
"Man"—this is a proud term, but we must ask ourselves what kind of man? Not the man, surely, who is irritated at trifles, who gives his attention to petty matters and gets involved in everything around him. To have the right to call himself a man, he must be a man; and this "being" comes only through self-knowledge and work on oneself in the directions that become clear through self-knowledge.
Have you ever tried to watch yourself mentally when your attention has not been set on some definite problem for concentration? I suppose most of you are familiar with this, although perhaps only a few have systematically watched it in themselves. You are no doubt aware of the way we think by chance association, when our thought strings disconnected scenes and memories together, when everything that falls within the field of our consciousness, or merely touches it lightly, calls up these chance associations in our thought. The
string of thoughts seems to go on uninterruptedly, weaving together fragments of representations of former perceptions, taken from different recordings in our memories. And these recordings turn and unwind while our thinking apparatus deftly weaves its threads of thought continuously from this material.
The records of our feelings revolve in the same way—pleasant and unpleasant, joy and sorrow, laughter and irritation, pleasure and pain, sympathy and antipathy. You hear yourself praised and you are pleased; someone reproves you and your mood is spoiled. Something new captures your interest and instantly makes you forget what interested you just as much the moment before. Gradually your interest attaches you to the
new thing to such an extent that you sink into it from head to foot; suddenly you do not possess it any more, you have disappeared, you are bound to and dissolved in this thing; in fact it possesses you, it has captivated you, and this infatuation, this capacity for being captivated is, under many different guises, a property of each one of us. This binds us and prevents our being free. By the same token it takes away our strength and our time, leaving us no possibility of being objective and free —two essential qualities for anyone who decides to follow the way of self-knowledge.
We must strive for freedom if we strive for self-knowledge.
The task of self-knowledge and of further self-development is of such importance and seriousness, it demands such intensity of effort, that to attempt it any old way and amongst other things is impossible. The person who undertakes this task must put it first in his life, which is not so long that he can afford to squander it on trifles.
What can allow a man to spend his time profitably in his search, if not freedom from every kind of attachment?
Freedom and seriousness. Not the kind of seriousness which looks out from under knitted brows with pursed lips, carefully restrained gestures and words filtered through the teeth, but the kind of seriousness that means determination and persistence in the search, intensity and constancy in it, so that a man, even when resting, continues with his main task.
Ask yourselves—are you free? Many are inclined to answer "yes," if they are relatively secure in a material sense and do not have to worry about the morrow, if they depend on no one for their livelihood or in the choice of their conditions of life.
But is this freedom? Is it only a question of external conditions?
You have plenty of money, let us say. You live in luxury and enjoy general respect and esteem. The people who run your well-organized business are absolutely honest and devoted to you. In a word, you have a very good life. Perhaps you think so yourself and consider yourself wholly free, for after all your time is your own. You are a patron of the arts, you settle world problems over a cup of coffee and you may even be interested in the development of hidden spiritual powers. Problems of the spirit are not foreign to you and you are at home among philosophical ideas. You are educated and well read. Having some erudition in many fields, you are known as a clever man, for you find your way easily in all sorts of pursuits; you are an example of a cultured man. In short, you are to be envied.
In the morning you wake up under the influence of an unpleasant dream. The slightly depressed mood disappeared but has left its trace in a kind of lassitude and uncertainty of movement. You go to the mirror to brush your hair and by accident drop your hairbrush. You pick it up and just as you have dusted it off, you drop it again. This time you pick it up with a shade of impatience and because of that you drop it a third time. You try to grab it in midair but instead, it flies at the mirror. In vain you jump to catch it. Smash! ... a star shaped cluster of cracks appears in the antique mirror you were so proud of. Hell! The records of discontent begin to turn. You need to vent your annoyance on someone. Finding that your servant has forgotten to put the newspaper beside your morning coffee, your cup of patience overflows and you decide you can no longer stand the wretched man in the house.
Now it is time for you to go out. Taking advantage of the fine day, your destination not being far away, you decide to walk while your car follows slowly behind. The bright sun somewhat mollifies you. Your attention is attracted to a crowd that has gathered around a man lying unconscious on the pavement. With the help of the onlookers the porter puts him into a cab and he is driven off to the hospital. Notice how the strangely familiar face of the driver is connected in your associations and reminds you of the accident you had last year.
You were returning home from a gay birthday party. What a delicious cake they had there! This servant of yours who forgot your morning paper ruined your breakfast. Why not make up for it now? After all, cake and coffee are extremely important! Here is the fashionable cafe you sometimes go to with your friends. But why have you remembered about the accident? You had surely almost forgotten about the morning's unpleasantness. . . . And now, do your cake and coffee really taste so good?
You see the two ladies at the next table. What a charming blonde! She glances at you and whispers to her companion, "That's the sort of man I like." Surely none of your troubles are worth wasting time on or getting upset about. Need one point out how your mood changed from the moment you met the blonde and how it lasted while you were with her? You return home humming a gay tune and even the broken mirror only provokes a smile.
But what about the business you went out for in the morning?
You have only just remembered it . . . that's clever! Still, it does not matter. You can telephone. You lift the receiver and the operator gives you the wrong number. You ring again and get the same number. Some man says sharply that he is sick of you—you say it is not your fault, an altercation follows and you are surprised to learn that you are a fool and an idiot, and that if you call again . . . The rumpled carpet under your foot
irritates you, and you should hear the tone of voice in which you reprove the servant who is handing you a letter. The letter is from a man you respect and whose good opinion you value.
The contents of the letter are so flattering to you that your irritation gradually dies down and is replaced by the pleasantly embarrassed feeling that flattery arouses. You finish reading it in a most amiable mood.
I could continue this picture of your day—you free man.
Perhaps you think I have been exaggerating. No, this is a true scenario taken from life.
This was a day in the life of a man well known both at home and abroad, a day reconstructed and described by him that same evening as a vivid example of associative thinking and feeling. Tell me where is the freedom when people and things possess a man to such an extent that he forgets his mood, his business and himself?
In a man who is subject to such variation can there be any serious attitude toward his search?
You understand better now that a man need not necessarily be what he appears to be, that the question is not one of external circumstances and facts but of the inner structure of a man and of his attitude toward these facts. But perhaps this is only true for his associations; with regard to things he "knows" about, perhaps the situation is different.
But I ask you, if for some reason each of you was unable to put your knowledge to practical use for several years, how much would remain? Would this not be like having materials which in time dry up and evaporate? Remember the comparison with a clean sheet of paper. And indeed in the course of our life we are learning something the whole time, and we call the results of this learning "knowledge." And in spite of this knowledge, do we not often prove to be ignorant, remote from real life and therefore ill-adapted to it? We are half-educated like tadpoles, or more often simply "educated" people with a little information about many things but all of it woolly and inadequate. Indeed it is merely information. We cannot call it knowledge, since knowledge is an inalienable property of a man; it cannot be more and it cannot be less. For a man "knows" only when he himself "is" that knowledge. As for your convictions—have you never known them to change? Are they not also subject to fluctuation like everything else in us? Would it not be more accurate to call them opinions rather than convictions, dependent as much on our mood as on our information or perhaps simply on the state of our digestion at a given moment?
Every one of you is a rather uninteresting example of an animated automaton. You think that a "soul," and even a "spirit," is necessary to do what you do and live as you live. But perhaps it is enough to have a key for winding up the spring of your mechanism. Your daily portions of food help to wind you up and renew the purposeless antics of associations again and again. From this background separate thoughts are selected and you attempt to connect them into a whole and pass them off as valuable and as your own. We also pick out feelings and sensations, moods and experiences and out of all this we create the mirage of an inner life, call ourselves conscious and reasoning beings, talk about God, about eternity, about eternal life and other higher matters; we speak about everything imaginable, judge and discuss, define and evaluate, but we omit to speak about ourselves and about our own real objective value, for- we are all convinced that if there is anything lacking in us, we can acquire it.
If in what I have said I have succeeded even to a small extent in making clear in what chaos is the being we call man, you will be able to answer for yourselves the question of what he lacks and what he can obtain if he remains as he is, what of value he can add to the value he himself represents.
I have already said that there are people who hunger and thirst for truth. If they examine the problems of life and are sincere with themselves, they soon become convinced that it is not possible to live as they have lived and to be what they have been until now; that a way out of this situation is essential and that a man can develop his hidden capacities and powers only by cleaning his machine of the dirt that has clogged it in the course of his life. But in order to undertake this cleaning in a rational way, he has to see what needs to be cleaned, where and how; but to see this for himself is almost impossible. In order to see anything of this one has to look from the outside; and for this mutual help is necessary.
If you remember the example I gave of identification, you will see how blind a man is when he identifies with his moods, feelings and thoughts. But is our dependence on things only limited to what can be observed at first glance? These things are so much in relief that they cannot help catching the eye.
You remember how we spoke about people's characters, roughly dividing them into good and bad? As a man gets to know himself, he continually finds new areas of his mechanicalness—let us call it automatism—domains where his will, his "I wish," has no power, areas not subject to him, so confused and subtle that it is impossible to find his way about in them without the help and the authoritative guidance of someone who knows.
This briefly is the state of things in the realm of self-knowledge: in order to do you must know; but to know you must find out how to know. We cannot find this out by ourselves.
Besides self-knowledge, there is another aspect of the search —self-development. Let us see how things stand there. It is clear that a man left to his own devices cannot wring out of his little finger the knowledge of how to develop and, still less exactly what to develop in himself.
Gradually, by meeting people who are searching, by talking to them and by reading relevant books, a man becomes drawn into the sphere of questions concerning self-development.
But what may he meet here? First of all an abyss of the most unpardonable charlatanism, based entirely on the greed for making money by hoaxing gullible people who are seeking a way out of their spiritual impotence. But before a man learns to divide the wheat from the tares, a long time must elapse and perhaps the urge itself to find the truth will flicker and go out in him, or will become morbidly perverted and his blunted flair may lead him into such a labyrinth that the path out of it, figuratively speaking, will lead straight to the devil.
If a man succeeds in getting out of this first swamp, he may fall into a new quagmire of pseudo-knowledge. In that case truth will be served up in such an indigestible and vague form that it produces the impression of a pathological delirium. He will be shown ways and means of developing hidden powers and capacities which he is promised, if he is persistent, will without much trouble give him power and domain over everything, including animate creatures, inert matter and the elements.
All these systems, based on a variety of theories, are extraordinarily alluring, no doubt precisely because of their vagueness. They have a particular attraction for the half-educated, those who are half-instructed in positivist knowledge. In view of the fact that most questions studied from the point of view of esoteric and occult theories often go beyond the limits of data accessible to modern science, these theories often look down on it. Although on the one hand they give positivist science its due, on the other, they belittle its importance and leave the impression that science is not only a failure but even worse.
What is the use then of going to the university, of studying and straining over official textbooks, if theories of this kind enable one to look down on all other learning and to pass judgment on scientific questions?
But there is one important thing the study of such theories does not give; it does not engender objectivity in questions of knowledge, less so even than science. Indeed it tends to blur a man's brain and to diminish his capacity for reasoning and thinking soundly, and leads him toward psychopathy. This is the effect of such theories on the half-educated who take them for authentic revelation. But their effect is not very different on scientists themselves, who may have been affected, however slightly, by the poison of discontent with existing things.
Our thinking machine possesses the capacity to be convinced of anything you like, provided it is repeatedly and persistently influenced in the required direction. A thing that may appear absurd to start with will in the end become rationalized, provided it is repeated sufficiently often and with sufficient conviction. And, just as one type will repeat ready-made words which have stuck in his mind, so a second type will find intricate proofs and paradoxes to explain what he says. But both are equally to be pitied. All these theories offer assertions which, like dogmas, usually cannot be verified. Or in any case they cannot be verified by the means available to us.
Then methods and ways of self-development are suggested which are said to lead to a state in which their assertions can be verified. There can be no objection to this in principle. But the consistent practice of these methods may lead the over-zealous seeker to highly undesirable results. A man who accepts occult theories and believes himself knowledgeable in this sphere will not be able to resist the temptation to put into practice the knowledge of the methods he has gained in his research, that is, he will pass from knowledge to action.
Perhaps he will act with circumspection, avoiding methods which from his point of view are risky, and applying the more reliable and authentic ways; perhaps he will observe with the greatest of care. All the same, the temptation to apply them and the insistence on the necessity for doing so, as well as the emphasis laid on the miraculous nature of the results and the concealment of their dark sides, will lead a man to try them.
Perhaps, in trying them, a man will find methods which are harmless for him. Perhaps, in applying them, he will even get something from them. In general, all the methods for self- development which are offered, whether for verification, as a means, or as an end, are often contradictory and incomprehensible. Dealing as they do with such an intricate, little-known machine as the human organism and with that side of our life closely connected with it which we call our psyche, the least mistake in carrying them out, the smallest error or excess of pressure can lead to irreparable damage to the machine.
It is indeed lucky if a man escapes from this morass more or less intact. Unfortunately very many of those who are engaged in the development of spiritual powers and capacities end their career in a lunatic asylum or ruin their health and psyche to such a degree, that they become complete invalids, unable to adapt to life. Their ranks are swelled by those who are attracted to pseudo-occultism out of a longing for anything miraculous and mysterious. There are also those exceptionally weak-willed individuals who are failures in life and who, out of considerations of personal gain, dream of developing in themselves the power and the ability to subjugate others. And finally there are people who are simply looking for variety in life, for ways of forgetting their sorrows, of finding distraction from the boredom of the daily round and of escaping its conflicts.
As their hopes of attaining the qualities they counted on begin to dwindle, it is easy for them to fall into intentional charlatanism. I remember a classic example. A certain seeker after psychic power, a man who was well off, well read, who had traveled widely in his search for anything miraculous, ended by going bankrupt and became at the same time disillusioned in all his researches.
Looking for another means of livelihood, he hit on the idea of making use of the pseudo-knowledge on which he had spent so much money and energy. No sooner said than done. He wrote a book, bearing one of those titles that adorn the covers of occult books, something like A Course in Development of the Hidden Forces in Man.
This course was written in seven lectures and represented a short encyclopedia of secret methods for developing magnetism, hypnotism, telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, escape into the astral realm, levitation and other alluring capacities.
The course was well advertised, put on sale at an exceedingly high price, although in the end an appreciable discount (up to 95 percent) was offered to the more persistent or parsimonious customers on condition that they recommend it to their friends.
Owing to the general interest in such matters, the success of the course exceeded all the expectations of its compiler. Soon he began to receive letters from purchasers in enthusiastic, reverent and deferential tones, addressing him as "dear teacher" and "wise mentor" and expressing deepest gratitude for the wonderful exposition and most valuable instruction which gave them the possibility of developing various occult capacities remarkably quickly.
These letters made a considerable collection and each of them surprised him until there at last came a letter informing him that with the help of his course someone had, in about a month, become able to levitate. This indeed overran the cup of his astonishment.
Here are his actual words: "I am astonished at the absurdity of things that happen. I, who wrote the course, have no very clear idea of the nature of the phenomena I am teaching. Yet these idiots not only find their way about in this gibberish but even learn something from it and now some superidiot has even learned to fly. It is, of course, all nonsense. He can go to hell. . . . Soon they will put him into a straitjacket. It will serve him right. We are much better off without such fools."
Occultists, do you appreciate the argument of this author of one of the textbooks on psychodevelopment? In this case, it is possible that somebody might accidentally learn something, for often a man, though ignorant himself, can speak with curious correctness about various things, without knowing how he does it. At the same time, of course, he also talks such nonsense that any truths he may have expressed are completely buried and it is utterly impossible to dig the pearl of truth out of the muckheap of every kind of nonsense.
"Why this strange capacity?" you may ask. The reason is very simple. As I have already said, we have no knowledge of our own, that is, knowledge given by life itself, knowledge that cannot be taken away from us. All our knowledge, which is merely information, may be valuable or worthless. In absorbing it like a sponge, we can easily repeat and talk about it logically and convincingly, while understanding nothing about it.
It is equally easy for us to lose it, for it is not ours but has been poured into us like some liquid poured into a vessel. Crumbs of truth are scattered everywhere; and those who know and understand can see and marvel how close people live to the truth, yet how blind they are and powerless to penetrate it. But in searching for it, it is far better not to venture at all into the dark labyrinths of human stupidity and ignorance than to go there alone. For without the guidance and explanations of someone who knows, a man at every step, without noticing it, may suffer a strain, a dislocation of his machine, after which he would have to spend a great deal more on its repair than he spent damaging it.
What can you think of a solid individual who says of himself that "he is a man of perfect meekness and that his behavior is not under the jurisdiction of those around him, since he lives on a mental plane to which standards of physical life cannot be applied"? Actually, his behavior should long ago have been the subject of study by a psychiatrist. This is a man who conscientiously and persistently "works" on himself for hours daily, that is, he applies all his efforts to deepening and strengthening further the psychological twist, which is already so serious that I am convinced that he will soon be in an insane asylum.
I could quote hundreds of examples of wrongly directed search and where it leads. I could tell you the names of well-known people in public life who have become deranged through occultism and who live in our midst and astonish us by their eccentricities. I could tell you the exact method that deranged them, in what realm they "worked" and "developed" themselves and how these affected their psychological makeup and why.
But this question could form the subject of a long and seperate conversation so, for lack of time, I will not permit myself to dwell on it now.
The more a man studies the obstacles and deceptions which lie in wait for him at every step in this realm, the more convinced he becomes that it is impossible to travel the path of self-development on the chance instructions of chance people, or the kind of information culled from reading and casual talk. At the same time he gradually sees more clearly—first a feeble glimmer, then the clear light of truth which has illumined mankind throughout the ages. The beginnings of initiation are lost in the darkness of time, where the long chain of epochs unfolds. Great cultures and civilizations loom up, dimly arising from cults and mysteries, ever changing, disappearing and reappearing.
The Great Knowledge is handed on in succession from age to age, from people to people, from race to race. The great centers of initiation in India, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, illumine the world with a bright light. The revered names of the great initiates, the living bearers of the truth, are handed on reverently from generation to generation. Truth is fixed by means of symbolical writings and legends and is transmitted to the mass of people for preservation in the form of customs and ceremonies, in oral traditions, in memorials, in sacred art through the invisible quality in dance, music, sculpture and various rituals. It is communicated openly after a definite trial to those who seek it and is preserved by oral transmission in the chain of those who know. After a certain time has elapsed, the centers of initiation die out one after another, and the ancient knowledge departs through underground channels into the deep, hiding from the eyes of the seekers.
The bearers of this knowledge also hide, becoming unknown to those around them, but they do not cease to exist. From time to time separate streams break through to the surface, showing that somewhere deep down in the interior, even in our day, there flows the powerful ancient stream of true knowledge of being.
To break through to this stream, to find it—this is the task and the aim of the search; for, having found it, a man can entrust himself boldly to the way by which he intends to go; then there only remains "to know" in order "to be" and "to do." On this way a man will not be entirely alone; at difficult moments he will receive support and guidance, for all who follow this way are connected by an uninterrupted chain.
Perhaps the only positive result of all wanderings in the winding paths and tracks of occult research will be that, if a man preserves the capacity for sound judgment and thought, he will evolve that special faculty of discrimination which can be called flair. He will discard the ways of psychopathy and error and will persistently search for true ways. And here, as in self-knowledge, the principle which I have already quoted holds good: "In order to do, it is necessary to know; but in order to know, it is necessary to find out how to know."
To a man who is searching with all his being, with all his inner self, comes the unfailing conviction that to find out how to know in order to do is possible only by finding a guide with experience and knowledge, who will take on his spiritual guidance and become his teacher.
And it is here that a man's flair is more important than anywhere else. He chooses a guide for himself. It is of course an indispensable condition that he choose as a guide a man who knows, or else all meaning of choice is lost. Who can tell where a guide who does not know may lead a man? Every seeker dreams of a guide who knows, dreams about him but seldom asks himself objectively and sincerely—is he worthy of being guided? Is he ready to follow the way?
Go out one clear starlit night to some open space and look up at the sky, at those millions of worlds over your head. Remember that perhaps on each of them swarm billions of beings, similar to you or perhaps superior to you in their organization. Look at the Milky Way. The earth cannot even be called a grain of sand in this infinity. It dissolves and vanishes, and with it, you. Where are you? And is what you want simply madness?
Before all these worlds ask yourself what are your aims and hopes, your intentions and means of fulfilling them, the demands that may be made upon you and your preparedness to meet them.
A long and difficult journey is before you; you are preparing for a strange and unknown land. The way is infinitely long.You do not know if rest will be possible on the way nor where it will be possible. You should be prepared for the worst. Take all the necessities for the journey with you.
Try to forget nothing, for afterwards it will be too late and there will be no time to go back for what has been forgotten, to rectify the mistake. Weigh up your strength. Is it sufficient for the whole journey? How soon can you start?
Remember that if you spend longer on the way you will need to carry proportionately more supplies, and this will delay you further both on the way and in your preparations for it. Yet every minute is precious. Once having decided to go, there is no use wasting time.
Do not reckon on trying to come back. This experiment may cost you very dear. The guide undertakes only to take you there and, if you wish to turn back, he is not obliged to return with you. You will be left to yourself, and woe to you if you weaken or forget the way—you will never get back. And even if you remember the way, the question still remains—will you return safe and sound? For many unpleasantnesses await the lonely traveler who is not familiar with the way and the customs which prevail there. Bear in mind that your sight has the property of presenting distant objects as though they were near. Beguiled by the nearness of the aim toward which you strive, blinded by its beauty and ignorant of the measure of your own strength, you will not notice the obstacles on the way; you will not see the numerous ditches across the path.
In a green meadow covered with luxuriant flowers, in the thick grass, a deep precipice is hidden. It is very easy to stumble and fall over it if your eyes are not concentrated on the step you are taking.
Do not forget to concentrate all your attention on the nearest sector of the way—do not concern yourself about far aims if you do not wish to fall over the precipice.
Yet do not forget your aim. Remember it the whole time and keep up in yourself an active endeavor toward it, so as not to lose the right direction. And once you have started, be observant; what you have passed through remains behind and will not appear again; so if you fail to notice it at the time, you never will notice it.
Do not be over curious nor waste time on things that attract your attention but are not worth it. Time is precious and should not be wasted on things which have no direct relation to your aim.
Remember where you are and why you are here.
Do not protect yourselves and remember that no effort is made in vain.
And now you can set out on the way.