The Importance of Being Humble
The virtue and uses of Humility on the path to the Light
Guest article by Seán Mac Gréine
Introduction by Occult Mysteries
We are delighted to publish another perceptive and moving contribution by Seán Mac Gréine; this time on the subject of humility. Those who enjoyed his previous essay on the power of patience should find this unusual story just as instructive and inspiring, whilst John Temple's delightful afterword speaks for itself.
Not so long ago, there was a man called Horace Humble who lived in the town of Hearth. Horace was like very many people, and also like so few. He had spent his whole life searching for the light of Truth but could never find it. The more he searched and discovered, the further from that light he seemed to be.
He tried so many things to invite Truth into his life. Among them Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation and magick with a 'k'. Horace had been led to believe the 'k' was very important though no one could tell him what it meant. He suspected it might stand for Karma as his was definitely worse after trying out a few spells and rituals. He also dabbled with Shamanism, Druidism, Wicca and Zen, but drew the line at Necromancy; he found the living difficult enough to handle without messing with the dead. No matter what he tried its positive impact was all too brief and he soon found himself back where he started—groping around in the dark. But that changed when one day he popped into his favourite second-hand bookshop during his lunch break. There he spotted a small notice advertising a class called 'The Importance of Being Humble' at the Nocturnal School for the Mind. Horace was intrigued and not a little flattered. "This has my name written all over it," he thought proudly. He wasted no time in saving the details on his phone to email the school later to learn more.
He'd never given his surname much thought until now, but as he browsed the bookshop, his thoughts kept returning to the word 'humble'. He paused in the reference section and looked up the word in a dictionary. "Having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's importance," he read. "Of low social, administrative, or political rank; origin: Middle English from Old French, from Latin humilis 'low, lowly', from humus 'ground." Horace suppressed a chuckle. "So my name comes from compost," he said to himself. His imagination conjured up an image of generations of 'humble' supplicants kneeling and begging before plaster saints and idols made of clay in their various places of worship.
He emailed the school as soon as he got back to the office and was surprised when he received a reply almost immediately. He was excited to read that they were having a class that very night and invited him to attend free of charge. He rushed home after work, bolted his dinner and had no sooner taken off his suit and changed into something more casual when his excitement drained away. Mounting anxiety took its place. "Wasn't this all a bit sudden?" he asked himself. Was he quite right in the head to go rushing off to this weirdly named class? Wouldn't it be full of vapid hippies and smug hipsters trying desperately hard to be original and authentic? Yet something about it appealed to him and spurred him on.
Somewhat anxious and conflicted, he trudged through the darkening streets of Hearth to the other side of town. When he finally arrived at his destination Horace Humble was less than impressed. He stood before a suburban red-brick detached house with pokey windows, moss-filled gutters and an untidy front garden. "This isn't a good sign," he said to himself. "It looks just like my house." Having made the journey, he decided he might as well see what it was all about. He had tried and been disappointed by so many other things, what difference would one more make? To his surprise the door was unlocked. He pushed it open and crossing the narrow hall, followed a sign stuck to the wall with an arrow pointing up. At the top of the stairs he paused before a door facing him with another sign reading 'Enter'.
"In for a penny..."he muttered under his breath, and tentatively opened the door. He was greeted by a very bright silvery light that emanated from what looked like an ordinary, incandescent light bulb. Even with his eyes tightly shut the light seemed to pull him towards it like a moth toward a flame. His resistance crumbled; he felt like he was floating on a rippling sea of silver electricity. He was both awed and terrified at the same time. Then, suddenly, the light went out and everything became dark.
When he opened his eyes he was standing beside a beautiful pool surrounded by grassy slopes that led to a large sycamore tree in the near distance. Beneath its leafy canopy a group of people sat immersed in happy and pleasant conversation. There was a faint violent hue in the sky and on the horizon, making it look as if the Sun were soon to rise but for the moment, the Moon, Divine Diana, sailed aloft in the firmament and shed her borrowed light on the empurpled waters of the pool. "What on earth is this place?" Horace wondered, "And where is it?" Had he passed through some kind of portal into another dimension? "It is far more likely I've been drugged or abducted," he thought cynically, but if so, when, how and by whom?
He walked over to the group and was greeted by the smiles of his fellow students. A teacher in a long white robe walked towards them. "Welcome," he began. "I congratulate you on taking this courageous first step on the way called 'The Importance of Being Humble."
"Where am I? Who are you?" asked Horace.
"All will become clear later," said the teacher. "For the moment I want you think only about being truly humble."
"But I am humble," said Horace. "That's my name. That's why I thought you'd invited me. I mean, names are important, aren't they?"
The teacher smiled. "Some are."
"Mine isn't?" asked Horace.
"That depends on how well you live up to it. True humility creates a positive mental state which attracts Wisdom and Light from the Higher Powers above. When pride and arrogance dominate our thinking, we are in a negative state of repulsion and incapable of either receiving or perceiving the Light of Truth."
"You may be tempted to tell others about the experience you're having this evening, but the first lesson the truly humble learn is the importance of silence."
"Why?" asked Horace.
"Because by talking about this experience to others you invite them to comment upon it and analyse it according to their personal preconceptions and prejudices. This weakens the experience and the lessons it has for you. It may even make you doubt it happened at all."
"Look to the flowers for your example," said the teacher. "They know they are beloved by Man who admires their light and beauty but remain for ever silent. Moreover, the flower like the mighty oak, knows its virtues come from Heaven towards which its shining face is ever turned in silent gratitude. May you ever make Peace your aim, for the man or woman who has found Peace has mastered a great secret. Then you may look aloft with true humility like the flowers and give thanks in silent prayer for the love that guides and protects you. This short address ends our first class. May you all live with the Peace of God that passeth all Understanding." With that, the students arose and took their leave of the teacher. There was a bright flash of light and the next thing Horace knew he was waking up in his own bed the following morning without any recollection of how he got home.
For the rest of the week he tried to put the advice of the mysterious teacher into practise. He tried to dispense empathy, kindness and support, even to those of his colleagues he loathed to distraction. Most of the time he failed miserably, but when he succeeded, his heart swelled within him in silent joy. Often he would catch himself voicing prideful thoughts and spouting arrogant opinions, and each time he resisted such impulses another surge of happiness would raise his spirits. Was this the Peace the teacher had talked about? He thought it must be. With every success he felt more positive and peaceful. Instead of vegetating in front of the TV or laptop every evening after work, he looked forward to wandering in the woods or walking by the river. He was inspired to read those books that had sat on his 'next-to-read shelf' for an inordinate amount of time. Now, instead of wondering why Love and Wisdom were not coming to him, he was actively reaching out to them.
Horace Humble was discovering the importance of being himself—that is to say his true Self, which is humble—and the week sped by in consequence. Soon it was time for his second class. He made his way to the unassuming old red brick house with a new spring in his step and pushed open the door excitedly. When he reached the first floor he was surprised to find the door gone, replaced by another arrow pointing to the second floor. Up he climbed, taking the steps two at a time and there, in the same familiar place, but a floor higher, was the door marked 'Enter'. Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, Horace gently pushed the door open and stepped inside. This time he was dazzled by a golden-orange light that flooded the whole room with its unearthly radiance. Again, he felt the pulsing rays overwhelm his senses and penetrate every cell in his body. As he closed his eyes he felt its loving, mercurial essence all around him. When he opened them again he saw a large shining temple made of golden-coloured stone with an arched doorway between two large columns. Beautiful music seemed to emanate from inside it; flutes and bells weaving soft melodies that spoke in the accents of angels.
A sandy path lined by palm and fig trees and all manner of wonderful flowers stretched before him, terminating in a series of wide marble steps leading to the entrance of the temple. When Horace entered that hallowed place he was overwhelmed by the beauty of the decorations, which were a curious blend of ancient Egyptian, Greek and central-American architecture. Upon the shining walls, brightly painted hieroglyphics depicted scenes of flowers, trees, animals, men and gods he found strangely familiar yet could not make sense of. Enchanted by all he beheld, he continued into the lustrous garden beyond. There he saw a small lake surrounded by tall bushes that bloomed with all kinds of fruit and flowers, and in the very far distance stood a magnificent mountain that rose in pyramidal form towards the heavens whose summit seemed to cradle the Sun's orb in the sky. Gathered around the edge of the lake the earnest group of his fellow students were gazing at the royal lotuses that floated like garlands across the still water. Horace made his way toward the happy throng and sat down on the soft grass beside them. No sooner had he done so than their teacher appeared and greeted them with a smile.
"I hope you have enjoyed the study of true humility this week?" he asked them. All nodded their agreement. "If you have been able to put what you have learnt into constant practice your spiritual and material life will have taken on a more positive and joyful character and you yourself will feel more truly alive. If, on the other hand, you have found your new realisation has caused you to dwell upon the murky and morose elements of the material world, and you feel a strong desire to turn away from your responsibilities and duties of earthly life to live a more spiritual existence, then you have failed to grasp and understand the Importance of Being Humble." Some students lowered their heads at this and not a few avoided the teacher's searching gaze, but not Horace who, true to his name, surveyed his fellow acolytes with a smile of becoming humility, or was it perhaps pride?
"You may find yourself wanting to neglect this earthly life in favour of your spiritual studies and the visions they open up of the higher realms of being," continued the teacher, "but this would be wrong—very wrong. True humility depends on understanding the fulcrum of 'balance' upon which both the material and spiritual life are poised in equilibrium. Balance should ever be your watchword and your touchstone. To turn away from earthly conditions in disgust in the hope of escaping them for a better life does not lead to freedom, but further slavery. We are placed here to learn certain lessons that cannot be learnt elsewhere or in any other way. Do not fall victim to this way of thinking as many students do. Instead of being enlightened and joyful, they are filled with loathing and aversion for the earthy plane of existence and so fail to attune with the Divine Truths that signpost the way to the path to the Light.
"There are six Spheres or realms of Darkness and Sin below the Earth, as well as Six Spheres or realms of Light and Goodness above it. The Earth, therefore, occupies a central position, partaking of the realms above and below to a certain extent, as you can read in The Quest of Ruru by J Michaud. We all once dwelt in the highest of these realms or planes in innocence and pristine beauty, but lacking experience of the material plane which alone brings Wisdom, we descended ever lower until at last we reached this world. Here the truly hard lessons began for us." The teacher paused and regarded his students with a compassionate eye. Many hung their heads, some shed tears; all were deeply moved, remembering the pain and sorrow each had endured to reach their present position. "Then," the teacher resumed, "began the long climb home which we are now essaying. A journey every living being is compelled to make at some point in its evolution. None are exempt from this, not even the greatest god. So the sacred texts of Egypt, India and other lands tell us—which age-old truths writers like J Michaud have re-stated for our instruction.
"From this it will be clear to you that to be truly humble (here the teacher smiled at Horace) is not servility. It is not thinking badly of oneself or lowering oneself in the eyes of the world. It is perfect understanding of our place and position in the spiritual-material realms. It is having the humility to seek inspiration and instruction from those who are ahead of us on the path whilst stretching out a helping hand to those further behind us, regarding them at the same time with tolerance and compassion in the knowledge that we have been just as ignorant and foolish as they are now."
The teacher lifted a clay bowl that was on the ground and dipped his hand into the lake. Scooping up a small amount of mud from the shoreline with his left hand he put it into the bowl. Then he cupped some of the pure water with his right hand and poured it over the mud in the bowl. Next he twirled the bowl in his hands until the water and mud were thoroughly mixed together. "Do you see what happens when you allow the negative conditions of material life—represented by this mud—to overcome you? he asked. "Let us heed the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tze when he said, 'May not a man take muddy water and make it clear by keeping still?'"
The teacher stopped rotating the bowl and allowed the water to come to rest. Slowly, the mud sank to the bottom until the water was as clear as crystal. "Inner stillness—which is another name for Peace—is the passport to success in all material and spiritual activities. But before we can find Peace we have first to acknowledge our lack of it. This takes courage and requires humility. It is the destiny of each one of us to return to our one true home, step by step, life by life, age by age as I told you earlier. This is not easy; it is the hardest journey we will ever make. But the Higher Powers will help us if we trust in them, for they know what it entails, having all made the same journey before us. This ends our second class. May you all find the Peace that passeth all Understanding. Amen." With that blessing the teacher departed and the students quietly dispersed.
Once again Horace couldn't remember how he got home. He awoke with a start the next morning and the memories of his second lesson all came flooding back to him, filling him with a sense of awe and gratitude. The beauty of that place consumed his mind and he felt like climbing onto the roof of his house and shouting to his neighbours and passersby of the great domains above us, if only we could see! He did not feel like going into work that day and called in sick, thinking he may even extend it to the whole week. Instead of eating breakfast, he decided to go for a walk in the woods and found himself dancing under the silent sycamores. As he walked deeper and further his mind soared aloft in thoughts of the higher worlds he'd glimpsed and the spiritual truths he'd learnt. After a while he became tired and sat down to rest, leaning against the fallen trunk of an oak tree. There He fell asleep, dreaming dreams of the wonderful realms of light above.
He travelled through many worlds of indescribable beauty, where everything was of a higher and better nature than anything to be experienced on earth. When he awoke he asked himself why people didn't see what he saw and want to know what he knew. "How come they're not searching for Light and Truth?" He asked himself. "Why do they covet their useless material possessions and pursue their petty ambitions when death will deprive them of all they've gained? I must be a very advanced soul. I will be a god amongst men. I will climb above this vile rat-race and distance myself from the mindless actions and thoughts of those who run it! The rabble won't infect me any longer with their ignorance and stupidity. I will rid myself of their company and join my own kind. Gautama Buddha will be my companion, Jesus my inspiration and Horus my brother. The Pearl of Great Price will be my treasure and I will leave behind the trap of materiality for ever!" Such were the proud words Horace Humble uttered in the feverish heat of his new-found zeal.
As his prideful thoughts took wing amidst the silent trees, a wasp—who perhaps had been listening—alighted on his bare arm and stung him. He cried out as the searing pain wrung curses from his throat, all his dreams of godlike omnipotence forgotten in his agony. He staggered to his feet and stumbling like a blind man, made his painful way home. There he put vinegar on the sting and swallowed a large dose of antihistamines. You see, the now not-so-humble Horace was allergic to wasp-stings. His face and arms were now terribly swollen. He was nauseous, dizzy and breathless, and his head felt like it was being stabbed with a thousand needles. He became so very ill he began to think he might die, as many do from anaphylactic shock. "Hah!" he muttered to himself, "this world is one cruel joke after another! Just when something really good happens, life comes along and stings us!" With that he passed out on his bed.
How long he remained unconscious he couldn't say, but daylight was creeping into the room when he cautiously opened his eyes and began to feel slightly more alive than dead. As he drifted somewhere between sleeping and waking a spark of light suddenly materialised before his startled eyes. The light grew in size and intensity and from it emerged a being like nothing Horace had ever seen before. If it was an angel it resembled none of the conventional pictures of one. It had wings, but they were made of golden, rosy light. In fact it was all made of light, woven into dazzling, ever-moving waves of colours Horace couldn't even name if he tried. There it stood, or rather floated, just above his bed. He couldn't move or speak; he simply stared at the angel, or woman, or goddess in disbelief and awe.
When she spoke (he couldn't help thinking of her as feminine though she resembled no earthly woman he had ever seen), it was like the faint tinkling of golden bells which he heard deep within himself. "You have been stung by the wasp of pride," she said. "Instead of being filled Peace and Love for your fellow man, you have turned away from your duties on earth and given way to pride—the deadliest of sins. As long as you are in your human body, you cannot escape the responsibilities of the material, for you have much to learn here as well as in the higher spiritual worlds. Search for the One True Light of God and strive to serve your fellow man." Her words reverberated within him as she disappeared as suddenly as she had arrived.
Horace Humble was a changed man, deeply ashamed of his negative thoughts and prideful imaginings. At first, he was dismayed at the extent and gravity of his fall, but then he remembered the old axiom, 'we learn most from our mistakes', and this gave him comfort and hope that he might yet live up to the promise of his name. Next morning he began to feel quite well again. Thoughts of true humility now engendered Peace in his mind and body and sorrow and disappointment were banished from his thinking. He spent the remaining days of the week filled with joy, because although he had given into pride, he had learnt to recognise its cruel and deadly grip and he knew the tremendous power it had to unhinge and destroy him. He returned to work and embraced his material life and responsibilities joyfully as a means to better himself and help others.
It was a very different Horace who attended the third class of 'The Importance of Being Humble' course at the Nocturnal School for the Mind. He now realised how much he didn't know but that was O. K. It is not who he was, what he did or when he did it that mattered, but where he was going. When he reached the old red-brick building he did not know what to expect. He walked up the stairs and followed the arrow to the next floor, and found the same arrow leading him up to the next floor. This time when he opened the door marked 'Enter' he stepped back in astonishment. Right in front of him, in the very centre of the room, stood a golden tree. But what a tree! Its lustre lit up the darkness and there seemed to be ethereal butterflies and birds floating and flying within its golden aura. He could see glittering jewels shining and pulsating; emeralds, sapphires, opals and amethysts amongst others, all luminescent and scintillating with power and energy.
One could say that Horace had truly and finally learnt the Importance of Being Humble. There he stood motionless, shocked and stunned, not knowing what to do. But the tree seemed to beckon him on, softly calling his name in melodies of heavenly music. He drew near, and stepping reverently onto one of the lower branches, began climbing. Using the jewels as footholds he soon found himself amidst a crown of golden boughs. But even as he looked about him, he found himself back on the path to the temple. He reached it in a flash, and passing through the garden and past the lake, travelled further than he had ever been before. Up, up, up he soared toward the peak of the magnificent mountain. The beautiful trees and flowers that lined the climbing, sinewy path rushed past in a blur, until, at last, the sun that had once loomed high above the noble peak seemed to descend toward him. A large, red wooden gate appeared across his path. As he approached it, an inner voice demanded to know his utmost desire. Without hesitation, Horace silently replied: "Peace." Swiftly the gate opened and the path disappeared from view behind him. Slowly, the light grew brighter and brighter, the feeling of infinite peace and joy swelled within him, until the whole atmosphere of that magical place vibrated with Wisdom and Love, and he knew this was his Home. Horace sang out in gladness and gratitude: "O the Light, the most beautiful Light!"
NOTE: The illustrations accompanying this article have been chosen by the author. That at the head of the sidebar is a detail from a painting by the 20th century American visionary artist, Joseph Parker entitled 'The Path' shown in its complete form within the body of the author's story. The illustration shown towards the end of the story is taken from Geoffrey Hodson's Kingdom of the Gods. It depicts a healing angel or Deva painted by the artist Ethelwynne M. Quail to Hodson's instructions. You can find a complete list of all the articles written by our contributors on our Readers' Comments page.
Article © Seán Mac Gréine. Afterword © Copyright John Temple & occult-mysteries.org.
All worldwide rights reserved. Published 13 October 2019.