The Hidden Power, by Thomas Troward , at sacred-texts.com
THERE are certain Oriental schools of thought, together with various Western offshoots from them, which are entirely founded on the principle of annihilating all desire. Reach that point at which you have no wish for anything and you will find yourself free, is the sum and substance of their teaching; and in support of this they put forward a great deal of very specious argument, which is all the more likely to entangle the unwary, because it contains a recognition of many of the profoundest truths of Nature. But we must bear in mind that it is possible to have a very deep knowledge of psychological facts, and at the same time vitiate the results of our knowledge by an entirely wrong assumption in regard to the law which binds these facts together in the universal system; and the injurious results of misapprehension upon such a vital question are so radical and far-reaching that we cannot too forcibly urge the necessity of clearly understanding the true nature of the point at issue. Stripped of all accessories and embellishments, the question resolves itself into this: Which shall we
choose for our portion, Life or Death? There can be no accommodation between the two; and whichever we select as our guiding principle must produce results of a kind proper to itself.
The whole of this momentous question turns on the place that we assign to desire in our system of thought. Is it the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden of the Soul? or is it the Upas Tree creating a wilderness of death all around? This is the issue on which we have to form a judgment, and this judgment must colour all our conception of life and determine the entire range of our possibilities. Let us, then, try to picture to ourselves the ideal proposed by the systems to which I have alluded--a man who has succeeded in entirely annihilating all desire. To him all things must be alike. The good and the evil must be as one, for nothing has any longer the power to raise any desire in him; he has no longer any feeling which shall prompt him to say, "This is good, therefore I choose it; that is evil, therefore I reject it"; for all choice implies the perception of something more desirable in what is chosen than in what is rejected, and consequently the existence of that feeling of desire which has been entirely eliminated from the ideal we are contemplating.
Then, if the perception of all that makes one thing preferable to another has been obliterated, there can be no motive for any sort of action whatever. Endue a being who has thus extinguished his faculty of desire
with the power to create a universe, and he has no motive for employing it. Endue him with all knowledge, and it will be useless to him; for, since desire has no place in him, he is without any purpose for which to turn his knowledge to account. And with Love we cannot endue him, for that is desire in its supreme degree. But if all this be excluded, what is left of the man? Nothing, except the mere outward form. If he has actually obtained this ideal, he has practically ceased to be. Nothing can by any means interest him, for there is nothing to attract or repel in one thing more than in another. He must be dead alike to all feeling and to all motive of action, for both feeling and action imply the preference for one condition rather than another; and where desire is utterly extinguished, no such preference can exist.
No doubt some one may object that it is only evil desires which are thus to be suppressed; but a perusal of the writings of the schools of thought in question will show that this is not the case. The foundation of the whole system is that all desire must be obliterated, the desire for the good just as much as the desire for the evil. The good is as much "illusion" as the evil, and until we have reached absolute indifference to both we have not attained freedom. When we have utterly crushed out all desire we are free. And the practical results of such a philosophy are shown in the case of Indian devotees, who, in pursuance of their resolve to crush out all desire, both for good and evil
alike, become nothing more than outward images of men, from which all power of perception and of action have long since fled.
The mergence in the universal, at which they thus aim, becomes nothing more than a self-induced hypnotism, which, if maintained for a sufficient length of time, saps away every power of mental and bodily activity, leaving nothing but the outside husk of an attenuated human form--the hopeless wreck of what was once a living man. This is the logical result of a system which assumes for its starting-point that desire is evil in itself, that every desire is per se a form of bondage, independently of the nature of its object. The majority of the followers of this philosophy may lack sufficient resolution to carry it out rigorously to its practical conclusions; but whether their ideal is to be realised in this world or in some other, the utter extinction of desire means nothing else than absolute apathy, without feeling and without action.
How entirely false such an idea is--not only from the standpoint of our daily life, but also from that of the most transcendental conception of the Universal Principle--is evidenced by the mere fact that anything exists at all. If the highest ideal is that of utter apathy, then the Creative Power of the universe must be extremely low-minded; and all that we have hitherto been accustomed to look upon as the marvellous order and beauty of creation, is nothing but a display of vulgarity and ignorance of sound philosophy.
But the fact that creation exists proves that the Universal Mind thinks differently, and we have only to look around to see that the true ideal is the exercise of creative power. Hence, so far from desire being a thing to be annihilated, it is the very root of every conceivable mode of Life. Without it Life could not be. Every form of expression implies the selection of all that goes to make up that form, and the passing-by of whatever is not required for that purpose; hence a desire for that which is selected in preference to what is laid aside. And this selective desire is none other than the universal Law of Attraction.
Whether this law acts as the chemical affinity of apparently unconscious atoms, or in the instinctive, if unreasoned, attractions of the vegetable and animal worlds, it is still the principle of selective affinity; and it continues to be the same when it passes on into the higher kingdoms which are ruled by reason and conscious purpose. The modes of activity in each of these kingdoms are dictated by the nature of the kingdom; but the activity itself always results from the preference of a certain subject for a certain object, to the exclusion of all others; and all action consists in the reciprocal movement of the two towards each other in obedience to the law of their affinity.
When this takes place in the kingdom of conscious individuality, the affinities exhibit themselves as mental action; but the principle of selection prevails without exception throughout the universe. In the conscious
mind this attraction towards its affinity becomes desire; the desire to create some condition of things better than that now existing. Our want of knowledge may cause us to make mistakes as to what this better thing really is, and so in seeking to carry out our desire we may give it a wrong direction; but the fault is not in the desire itself, but in our mistaken notion of what it
that it requires for its satisfaction. Hence unrest and dissatisfaction until its true affinity is found; but, as soon as this is discovered, the law of attraction at once asserts itself and produces that better condition, the dream of which first gave direction to our thoughts.
Thus it is eternally true that desire is the cause of all feeling and all action; in other words, of all Life. The whole livingness of Life consists in receiving or in radiating forth the vibrations produced by the law of attraction; and in the kingdom of mind these vibrations necessarily become conscious out-reachings of the mind in the direction in which it feels attraction; that is to say, they become desires. Desire is therefore the mind seeking to manifest itself in some form which as yet exists only in its thought. It is the principle of creation, whether the thing created be a world or a wooden spoon; both have their origin in the desire to bring something into existence which does not yet exist. Whatever may be the scale on which we exercise our creative ability, the motive power must always be desire.
Desire is the force behind all things; it is the moving
principle of the universe and the innermost centre of all Life. Hence, to take the negation of desire for our primal principle is to endeavour to stamp out Life itself; but what we have to do is to acquire the requisite knowledge by which to guide our desires to their true objects of satisfaction. To do this is the whole end of knowledge; and any knowledge applied otherwise is only a partial knowledge, which, having failed in its purpose, is nothing but ignorance. Desire is thus the sum-total of the livingness of Life, for it is that in which all movement originates, whether on the physical level or the spiritual. In a word, desire is the creative power, and must be carefully guarded, trained, and directed accordingly; but thus to seek to develop it to the highest perfection is the very opposite of trying to kill it outright.
And desire has fulfilment for its correlative. The desire and its fulfilment are bound together as cause and effect; and when we realise the law of their sequence, we shall be more than ever impressed with the supreme importance of Desire as the great centre of Life