One of the most important elements connected with the work of Individual Spiritual Unfoldment and Growth is the Attitude of Soul. Throughout the literature of the School reference is made to it. Again and again letters are received from people asking what is meant by “The Attitude of Soul,” or for a definition of it, or for an elucidation of the subject. At this particular time, in view of the disturbing and distressing conditions surrounding almost every Individual, the subject seems to be particularly timely, and appropriate.
“Nature evolves a man,” that is, Nature carries the process of evolution forward to the estate of man. This is evidently the highest point in the process of evolution, which Nature alone can reach. Henceforward it becomes necessary that this highest product of Nature, man, cooperate with Nature in order to evolve to ever higher levels. For this purpose Nature has invested him with the faculties, capacities and powers which make intelligent cooperation possible, namely, the Soul Attributes, which are: Self-Consciousness, Reason, Independent Choice and an Independent, Self-Conscious and Rational Will or Volition. These are the distinctly human faculties, capacities and powers which distinguish man from the animal and make of him a personally responsible and morally accountable being. In other words, Nature has fixed upon man the obligation to cooperate with her, and for doing so, promises a reward, expressed in the short little sentence: “Man cooperating with Nature evolves a Master.”
This is the Constructive Road, the “Road to the South.”
Having been given the power of independent choice, man has the power to refuse to cooperate with Nature, or even to oppose Nature’s forces. In either of these events he must suffer the inevitable, fixed and immutable consequences: Devolution, Unhappiness, Misery, Disintegration, and seeming Spintual Death or what appears to be total individual extinction.
And this is the Destructive Road, “the Road to the North.”
To enable him to choose intelligently between the only two possible Roads, Nature has implanted in every human soul the desire for Happiness; and to guide him in the right direction, she has provided him with an unfailing compass in the form of Conscience, the still, small voice of the Soul.
It would seem strange that any human being, so liberally equipped by bountiful Nature, should deliberately choose the Destructive Road, the very Road which leads him farther and farther away from the Goal he so strongly desires. And yet, apparently, the large majority of mankind are doing this very thing. They are heedlessly following the merry throng upon the Road which leads to the Land of Darkness, Slavery, and Spiritual Death.
How can this be? How is this possible?
There must be an answer to these questions and an explanation of this glaring paradox. And there is, indeed, an answer and an explanation, and we all can answer and explain upon the authority of personal experience.
The Road to the North is so enticing and inviting; it is so broad and smooth and gently declining. It requires no perceptible effort to glide down the gentle slope with ever increasing momentum. All one really has to do is to refrain from doing anything; “dolce far niente” (sweet do-nothing) the Italian calls it. We need but abandon ourselves to the delicious pleasures of the senses, and gravity will do the rest, and pull us down the parabolic decline with steadily increasing speed until we cross the “Line of Despair” and sink into the yawning chasm of individual extinction, beyond the reach of the Soul element, unless the darkening scenes and deepening shadows recall us to our senses before it is too late.
On the other side, the Road to the South is so unattractive and uninviting; it is so narrow and rough and steep and thorny. It calls for unremitting effort to make headway, to overcome the pull of gravity and the push of the wind. It is beset with dangers in the shape of lions which threaten to tear us to pieces, and one by one we must fight and slay them if we would advance. In fact, there would seem to be nothing about it that could possibly induce a rational human being to choose the unattractive Road to the South, but for the innate desire for Satisfaction and Happiness, guided by Conscience, and supplemented by:
- The knowledge that Constructive Personal Effort is the price of spiritual growth, development and ultimate happiness, and that neither are found upon a road of indolence and self-indulgence.
- An abiding Faith in the justice, consistency and goodness of Nature.
- The assurance of, and our Faith in, those Great Souls who have traveled this road before us, have overcome the obstacles and reached the Goal, the Land of Liberty and Light.
The students of Natural Science have made their choice. They have set their faces to the South. They are determined to follow the lead of the Great Souls whom we have learned to call “The Great Friends.” With us the question no longer is: “Which Road shall I travel?” It is only: “How can I most surely and quickly reach the goal of Mastership?” Or, expressed in different words: “What are the necessary qualifications which will enable me to reach the Goal in safety and without undue delay?”
The answer to this seemingly simple, but tremendously important question may be condensed into two little words, namely, Morality and Service.
To the Student of Natural Science these terms have a clear and definite meaning; their full significance and import, however, is discovered only through a knowledge of the moral principles of Nature so clearly elucidated in The Great Work. These simple little words, Morality and Service, cover a multitude of fundamental requirements, qualities, characteristics, attainments, prerequisites, duties, purpose, motives, attitudes, and practices, which, if studied faithfully and conscientiously, give us not only a correct and clear understanding or intellectual grasp of the fundamental principles underlying Morality and Service but also enable us to correctly apply the Knowledge thus gained, in our Daily Life and Conduct and in our dealings with our fellow men.
It is a well-known fact that the Attitude of Soul, or the Spirit in which we do a thing, largely determines the result. For example, the Optimist, as everybody knows, has a better chance to succeed than the Pessimist. Likewise, the Patient who has Faith in the powers of his physician or his medicine, is filled with the hope of a speedy recovery, has a far better chance of regaining his health than the Patient who does not believe in physicians, medicines, the goodness of Nature nor the efficacy of Prayer.
If we comply with Nature’s Laws reluctantly, or grudgingly, or with an ever-present protest, we can hardly expect to make rapid progress, no matter how many hours we many labor every day, or however hard we may try otherwise. In such an Attitude of Soul, the smallest tasks become a burden and the Sun of Inspiration never shines. With them, as with the Galley-Slave, time drags, and often death itself would be a welcome relief.
How different is Life to him whose Soul perceives the goodness, justice and consistency of Nature. With gratitude for his many blessings in his heart, and a song of joy within his Soul, he puts his best into every act and knows that difficulties, tests and trials are but stepping stones to greater heights and opportunities for better Service. Thus every duty is transformed into a privilege and every task is a pleasure, and the servile, grumbling slave becomes an intelligent, willing, cheerful, enthusiastic, hopeful, efficient and self-respecting co-worker with his gentle, loving mother Nature.
Just stop a moment, and think: this almost miraculous transformation is brought about by nothing more and nothing less than a simple change in the Attitude of Soul, a change which can be effected almost within the twinkling of an eye. We all, undoubtedly, have experienced such a change and know what it means and, I believe, we are all anxious to cultivate the constructive Attitude of Soul, and once fully established, maintain it, and thus earn Nature’s reward in the form of greater powers and greater opportunities for Service.
The establishment and maintenance of the Perfect Attitude of Soul is possible only after we have acquired a clear understanding and comprehension of each and every principle on our list, and, in the very nature of things, could not possibly be accomplished at the beginning of our work of Self-Unfoldment. However, it must be clear to those who have followed me to this point that a definite Attitude of Soul is necessary for the accomplishment of any purpose, and that it is essential that we approach each day’s tasks, and each week’s labors in the constructive Attitude, or in the right Spirit, if we would make our year’s work a success.
In the course of this analysis and elucidation, we have already become familiar with the essential elements of this Constructive Attitude, and all that remains to be done, for the sake of clearness and distinctness, is to summarize and to adapt these elements to our present requirements.
The following elements would seem to constitute the essential components of that Attitude of Soul which every one of us must establish and maintain if our individual work of growth and unfoldment shall be a success.
- The earnest, intense and unselfish Desire for the improvement of Self and the Service to our Fellow Man.
- Faith in the efficacy of the work of Self-Unfoldment. In other words, the firm conviction that our year’s work will produce the desired constructive result; provided, we carry it through conscientiously.
- A clear recognition of our Personal Responsibility:
- to ourselves,
- to our fellowman,
- to the Great School, as the source of our information,
- to the Cause of Humanity,
- and last but by no means least, to the Great Friends, the Invisible Helpers, who are so deeply interested in our work and success, and who are ever ready, willing, eager and anxious to help us, whenever we make it possible.
- The unrelaxing determination to put forth our best efforts.
- Attention to every detail of our life, as well as our analysis and practice of moral principles, always remembering the fact that the Soul grows in the direction of the line of Attention.
- Open-mindedness. That freedom from prejudice, preconceived notions, or ideas, or habits of thought, which keeps all the doors and windows of our Soul open and enables us to receive to the limits of our capacity, and without obstruction.
- The Prayerful Attitude which would seem to be composed of:
- the clear understanding that there will be plenty of difficulties and obstacles in our path; that many of these difficulties and obsticles owe their existence solely and entirely to our own limitations and shortcomings, and therefore do not exist, in the same form, in relation to anyone but ourselves; that these difficulties and obstacles cease to exist, as such, the moment we succeed in mastering those shortcomings which gave them birth.
- the recognition of the simple fact that no man can go beyond his present limitations, and that because of this fact neither Nature, nor the Great Friends, nor The Great School, nor ourselves, nor any other intelligent, rational being, can and do expect of us more than we can perform, and
(c) the unshakable Faith that Nature will send her Messengers, the Visible or Invisible Helpers, to supplement our own powers and resources whenever we have done our best and made such help possible. “Do the thing and you shall have the power.”
This Prayerful Attitude, composed of Understanding and Faith makes possible:
- The Courage to face and fight the difficulties in our path, or the “Lions on the Way,” unflinchingly and free from worry, apprehension, discouragement or any other phase of Fear.
- The Perseverance necessary to the accomplishment of each day’s and week’s tasks, and of the whole year’s labors and tasks, always remembering that all constructive growth is a slow process, and that without perseverance we can accomplish no lasting results.
- That true Humility, which results from a clear recognition of our dearth of knowledge and from a correct estimate or our true status in the scale of evolution and spiritual development, and which enables us to accept the Truth from whatever source it may come.
- Charity. That unselfish, generous, magnanimous, noble Attitude of Soul, which enables its possessor to view the shortcomings, faults, errors, mistakes, and even sins, of others, of the past as well as the present, understandingly, helpfully, forgivingly, forbearingly, and without even the shadow of an unworthy motive or emotion such as resentment, anger, envy, jealousy, or revenge.
If we would help our fellowmen we must glow with the warmth of sympathy and compassion, tempered by gentleness, tact, and understanding, to melt the icy barrier which the “inhumanity of man” is so apt to erect around every refined and sensitive individual.
To be effective, this charitable Attitude of Soul must not only be understood and approved intellectually, but it must also pervade our whole being and radiate through our thoughts and manners.
- The Moral Courage:
- frankly and unreservedly to acknowledge our own shortcomings, and
- to help others to recognize theirs.
- That glowing quality of Enthusiasm which confers upon its fortunate possessor all of those elements, qualities, properties, and characteristics which make for irresistible success. Among these are Energy, Elasticity, Buoyancy, Lightness of Heart, Zeal, Hope, Inspiration, Exalted Devotion, Cheerfulness, and Confidence of Success.
That active, well-balanced quality of Enthusiasm which “gives expression to what might well be named `The Color Scheme’ of the Philosophy of Individual Life. It gives expression to that which lends warmth, beauty, and illumination of the otherwise hard life of ‘Duty,’ and transforms the iron chain of `Obligation’ into the sparkling, bejeweled, golden thread of ‘Privilege’.”
Every one of the foregoing thirteen elements would seem to constitute an important, if not a vital, ingredient in the Attitude of Soul which we should cultivate, establish and maintain in order to insure the largest possible measure of success in our work of this coming year.
If you can but maintain the perfect Constructive Attitude of Soul for one year, you will make the Demonstration, every one, as surely as the sun will rise again. In fact, no one could maintain the Constructive Attitude of Soul for one year and not make the Demonstration of a Life After Death.
Beloved Friends and Fellow Students, let us always keep before us as a guiding star upon our path these wonderfully inspiring words of one who knows and who has traveled the narrow road before us.
In conclusion permit me to express the well-founded conviction that the tremendous task of Self-Unfoldment confronting us during the ensuing year will become comparatively easy of accomplishment, if we can firmly establish and maintain the Constructive Attitude of Soul which I have earnestly endeavored to analyze and elucidate.
The Great School of Natural Science