Inner balance through applied Wisdom
Several readers have asked us how to balance the often conflicting desires of the Higher and lower selves to attain that equilibrium which is surely the goal of all sincere occult students. In this article we hope to answer this question.
Is it easy to attain inner balance? No, ten thousand times no. it is the hardest thing in the world. If it were easy all men and women would be equally balanced individuals and we would not need to write articles like this, nor would you need to read them. Inner balance is the work of a lifetime. Nor does the work ever cease so long as the Higher Self has not obtained the mastery over the lower. And even then the occult student must be constantly on their guard against the demon of self-congratulation from within and the negative conditions that assail him from without. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a 'Higher' and 'lower' Self we suggest that you first read our occult studies course article on The path to the Light which defines what WE mean by these terms.
In The Quest of Ruru by J Michaud PhD, we may read:
"It is as difficult to attain to Wisdom as standing on the edge of a sharp sword."
How true those words are! Whilst the Higher Self can reach out to the Light the lower self is powerless to do so without the aid of its better half. Without such guidance it is almost impossible for it to remain calm, steadfast and positive when faced with hard tests and trials, or when the spiritual aspirations of the Higher Self conflict with its material desires and ambitions. All the True Teachers and Sages affirm that inner balance can only be attained by the rigorous control of the body, senses and lower self.
Let us return to the quotation with which we began this article. Imagine that YOU are the one who is attempting to balance on the edge of a sharp sword. Try to see it clearly in your mind's eye. Think what it means to not only keep your balance but maintain it whilst walking along the sword's edge. Such a feat requires many different skills, or we might say attributes, which are of the greatest importance to the occult student. Patience is one, persistence is another. Faith is a very important attribute too, for without faith in our selves and in God we shall most certainly fall off the sword. There are other attributes needed too—think! You should do this with all our articles, for there is much more in them than is apparent on a first, or even a tenth, reading.
The pendulum of a clock is one example of balance we are all familiar with. Without it, the clock would not work. The pendulum pivots about a fixed, central point which limits its movement in either direction. This gives us several important clues as to how we may balance the very different needs and aspirations of our two selves. Our fixed point should be our belief and trust in the guidance of our own Divine Soul, whether we regard this as our Father in Heaven or the Master within, who watches over both selves at all times. In the degree that we listen to His wise and loving guidance (often called the 'still, small voice within') so shall we be able to limit the swing of our personal pendulum and attain balance in our thinking and acting.
The primary concern of the lower self is the preservation of the body and all that this implies, which it sometimes manages badly and excessively. Its needs and aspirations are glued firmly to the material plane and it has no concept of, or desire to learn, the great spiritual truths. It is an animal, pure and simple, with the instincts and desires of an animal, only slightly more developed than an intelligent dog or cat. The fact that some human beings display considerably more intelligence than an animal is due entirely to the presence of the Higher Self, which is absent from all animals except man. But in most persons the lower self is essentially unaware of the Higher Self, so although we may find great intellectual powers in them, these are under the control of the lower self which uses them to pursue its own material aims and desires. It is only among the more evolved human beings that we find some evidence of religious feeling or spiritual aspiration, however primitive or tentative it may be.
But once the lower self has made some contact with its Higher Self and the desire for spiritual knowledge and emancipation has well and truly been awakened in us, a battle royal commences between the two selves. The lower self will put up the most desperate struggle to prevent the smallest morsel of real knowledge and wisdom from entering its tabernacle in case this should curtail its erstwhile pleasures and desires. Ten to one you who are reading this will smile at this point, for there is no genuine seeker after Truth who has not experienced this battle in some way or another. Nor, as we said earlier, does the fight ever end, until or unless one or the other self gains the upper hand. If the Higher Self is the victor, harmony is established in which each self pursues its rightful duties and follows its natural inclinations without undue interference from the other. If the lower self triumphs another 'angel' descends into Hell. You can read about the dreadful fate of those who turn their back on the Light and embrace the darkness in Symphonie Fantastique by J Michaud PhD, published in full on this website.
As each self strives for the mastery we pass through many different stages. At one extreme we find the religious fanatic who despises their own body and goes to the most extraordinary lengths to 'subdue' it by indulging in all sorts of ascetic practises in the hope of achieving 'enlightenment'. At the opposite pole we find the hedonist who indulges every low passion to the fullest extent to the ruin of their health and the exclusion of any aspirations beyond the fulfilment of their own selfish, material desires. In between these two extremes we find every possible combination of 'swings' to left and right, or the material and spiritual and back again. It is all too easy for the lower self to either balk at Higher things, or take them on with a vengeance, which leads to imbalance at best or fanaticism at worst. We must always be on our guard against the slightest tinge of fanaticism, anger, fear, arrogance or hatred as these are all sure signs of the lower self at full blast.
Entering into Silence
In the Bhagavad-Gita we may read that:
"When all desires are in peace and the mind, withdrawing within, gathers the multitudinous straying senses into the harmony of recollection; Then, with reason armed with resolution, let the seeker quietly lead the mind into the Spirit, and let all his thoughts be silence. And whenever the mind unsteady and restless strays away from the Spirit, let him ever and for ever lead it again to the Spirit."
These simple words succinctly describe the process of attaining inner balance through applied wisdom. They also describe the right way to meditate—a mental discipline all can benefit from if they practise the simple exercise we suggest in our article on Study and Meditation.
We find the same advice stated over and over again by all the Teachers of the Eternal Verities, but most men are deaf to the voice of Wisdom, whether it is the 'still small voice within', or the sacred teachings of the Sages, such as we can find in the little-known Book of Fo:
"Verily thy five windows are the five senses of thy Soul. He who closes them and admits not the light of this world shall see the Light of his Spirit. But he who opens them to all the world, shall sit in darkness, not letting his Spirit put forth any of her own glorious internal Light."
Whilst one can close the 'windows' of the eyes, the other senses can only be 'closed' by retiring into silence, which is not easy in this modern world, but it can be done if we truly desire it. Every student, however 'busy' they may be, can find ten minutes during the day for meditation. And if you cannot find a quiet place at home where you will not be disturbed by family, friends or the next-door neighbour practising the violin (badly), then go out into the parks of your town or city, or if you live in the country, find a secluded spot in the woods and fields and practise there. And if it's raining take an umbrella with you!
We can also enter into silence by going out into Nature, and observing the beauty and harmony of a flower, a tree, a gorgeous sunset or sunrise, or anything else that we, each in our own way, consider truly uplifting and beautiful. We can do it by visiting the great museums and art galleries and standing or sitting in quiet contemplation before any exhibit or painting that fills us with joy, calm and light.
The power of silence is well-illustrated in Nature, which is the greatest book of Wisdom ever written. Consider the titanic forces that circulate within a tropical storm. Forces that are in many ways similar to the passions and desires that surge around us at all times. Yet within the very centre of such violent tempests we find utter silence and calm. Does this suggest something to you? We hope so. For in that centre we find a mighty being, invisible to all but the trained seer, who is in full control of the energies that whirl about it. In just this way can YOU learn to control, direct and master your desires and passions if you follow the suggestions we give you in this article.
Taking control of your lower self
One way in which you can learn to control the turbulent passions and desires of your lower self is to step outside yourself, as it were, and carefully examine your thoughts and acts from the point of view of an impartial and detached observer who regards your life from the standpoint of eternity. For this is just what your Higher Self does and can do, if you let it! You will then see circumstances and persons which previously aroused feelings of anguish, worry, fear or anger in you, in their proper perspective and many of the petty annoyances of life will lose their power to trouble you.
When in future you are confronted with some difficulty, annoyance or trial, ask yourself honestly: "will this matter very much to me in five, or ten years time?" In most cases the answer will be "no". So why are you worrying about it? We may read in the Bible that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34). We may say the same about many things people get so thoroughly unbalanced about. Yet they will wish all kinds of 'evils' upon themselves by anticipating catastrophes and disappointments before they arrive. In doing so they not only worry needlessly about things that may never come to pass, but by dwelling upon them in a negative way actively help to bring them about.
Let us now examine some of the more common desires of the lower self to see where they lead and what we can do to control them. We will begin with ambition, which is generally regarded as a virtue, but is it? We should say it depends on where ambition leads us, and to what extent we allow it to dominate our thinking and acting. We have known, and do know many good men and women who have literally worked themselves to death to build up a large enterprise, to the detriment of any spiritual progress they might have made, had they devoted some of their time and energy to the things of the higher life rather than amassing wealth, fame and honours on earth.
In the Bible we may read that: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). What else is this but an exhortation to balance? By all means pursue your career or profession to provide for the necessaries of life for yourself and your family, but allow time for your spiritual studies and meditations too. And spare a thought for those less fortunate than you, and give them what aid and comfort you can. In this way you will amass treasure in Heaven in the form of wisdom, knowledge and good deeds, which will follow you from life to life, whereas earthly 'treasure', whatever form it may take, must inevitably 'rust and corrupt' as the Bible also tells us.
Read Proverbs in the Bible and study the wise advice that you find there. The men and women who wrote down these Eternal Truths were not saintly ascetics living in damp caves on nuts and berries, but practical folk who went out and about in the world and knew its ways through personal and often painful experience. Read your Bible in any case and any other sacred texts that appeal strongly to you. Such books are filled with practical wisdom of the RIGHT sort if you can recognise it when you come across it—and apply it in your everyday life and thinking.
Most of us know that scratching an itch makes it worse. The same applies to any desire, which increases in direct proportion to the amount of attention we give it. This may seem very obvious, but have you ever consciously and consistently tried to direct your thoughts away from a desire? The chances are that you have not. If you can learn to do this you will find that many desires lose their hold over you and you will have taken the first step to controlling your lower self. We can apply the same mental control to every aspect of our thinking. The Americans have a saying: "Take five," meaning that we should pause for thought before opening our mouths or doing anything that may harm us. This links up with what we said earlier about stepping outside ourselves and rigorously examining our desires and aspirations.
What of the other, less amiable traits of the lower self so many people are unable or unwilling to control, such as anger, hatred, pride, jealousy, lust etc? It has been wisely said that if we would be angry and sin not, we should never be angry with anything but sin. In other words righteous indignation at the ill treatment, exploitation or oppression of others, or injustice and cruelty in any form are all justifiable reasons for feeling angry. The fact that your neighbour has chosen to park their car across your driveway, or someone has abused you behind your back are not. If you are angered by abuse, it is a sure and certain sign that it is your own opinion of yourself which confirms the aspersions of your traducer. We cannot see in others what is not in ourselves. Be indifferent to abuse, but despise praise. And the louder your opponent shouts, the less is he sure of himself; for noise is ever the sign of incompetence and cowardice.
Hatred is a form of mental suicide; for he who hates expends his energy and weakens his intellect. A wise man never hates, but only pities the doer of evil. Thus he gathers strength in his wisdom from the forces expended by his opponents in their evil acts and thoughts, and his mental and vital powers increase according to the strength of his forbearance. We should also remember the wise words of the Chinese Sage Li Wang Ho who wrote more than 2,000 years ago that: "he who gives way to spite ensures for himself an everlasting Dwelling-Place in the Nether Regions amongst his own kin. Then he will learn what true Spite really is."
Pride has been called "the peer and first president of Hell" and it was through pride that Lucifer was degraded from an Angel to a devil. If you are far advanced in occult knowledge, or even if you are a mere beginner, you will, we hope, acknowledge that we possess nothing which is not the gift of our Creators. We may develop the gifts we do have and claim some small credit for this, but if we are honest we cannot claim to own them, much less be the author of them. Physical beauty is one example of such a gift many people are inordinately proud of, never realising that their pride in their appearance is as much an illusion as the things on which they pride themselves. For it is only our Creators who can bestow that upon us of which so many in their stupidity and abysmal ignorance, are so proud.
Jealousy and envy are sure and certain signs that the lower self is in full control of the man or woman who exhibits these pernicious passions. The envious person is utterly unbalanced, untrustworthy and duplicitous on account of their spiteful jealousies of other people's possessions, learning, talents or success. They have no true freedom as they are enslaved by their own lack of goodwill and ignorance. They lack all confidence in their own abilities to achieve the same status as those whom they regard with green-eyed jealousy.
Let us sit at the feet of Shakespeare for a moment and see what that Master had to say about a passion most of us have suffered from at some time: lust.
"The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell."
Study this sonnet and try to get at the full meaning behind the words. Now let us see what the Bard had to say about LOVE, so that we may learn the very great difference between these two polar opposites.
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."
The plays and sonnets of Shakespeare are filled with occult truths about the human condition, if we take the time and trouble to dig them out. Nor do we know of any other writer who possessed a deeper and more complete understanding of Man than this peer among Poets.
Finding inner balance
Rudyard Kipling's famous poem If has many good things to say about inner balance and we cannot resist quoting it in full.
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise."
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
Study this remarkable poem and try to get at its full meaning. IF you consistently practise even half the principles Kipling versified in his poem, you will be well on your way to achieving inner balance.
Once we begin to consciously control and tame the turbulent passions and desires of the lower self, the sparks begin to fly! No matter what form the battle takes we may be sure that we will have a royal fight on our hands for so long we remain united in our common tabernacle of the body. But through silent meditation and the wise control of our desires such as we have discussed earlier, the 'beastliness' of the lower self is gradually stripped away. We can then safely exchange 'beast' for 'naughty child'. And like a child, the lower self will respond more to gentleness, patience and understanding than a sound thrashing. The latter may ensure it's compliance for a time, but the sinner will seize the very first opportunity to return to his vices, whereas compassion and understanding allied to firm guidance must eventually bring about a transformation in its nature and proclivities. If we remember at all times that a WISE master does not beat his servant we shall not go too far wrong in obtaining the right balance.
So, be too noble for anger, for that destroys your inner balance. Be too wise for envy, pride or lust; too faithful for fear and too happy to permit the presence of sadness. Think well of yourself, and let the world see that you do so without ostentation or loud words, but in good deeds of kindness and wisdom. Make all your friends feel that there is much good in them, and encourage them to let it come out. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true, for dwelling on adversity will bring it to you. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. If you give time and energy to the improvement of yourself in these and the other good ways we have discussed in this article, you will stand erect upon the sharp sword of life with your eyes firmly fixed on Heaven, master of your life on earth, rather than the dumb slave of your uncontrolled lower self.
If you have enjoyed this article, you may also like the following articles:
Searching for Truth—the true story of one man's search for a true teacher and the true teachings; Losing your way—where and how to find truth; and Out to lunch with Tibetan Lamas, in the commentary to which we examine how and why the cult of the Masters arose, who they really are and what their real work is.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article added 24 January 2015. Last updated 1 June 2016.