The Candle of Vision, by AE (George William Russell), , at sacred-texts.com
To move a single step we must have power. To see we must be exalted. Not to be lost in vision we must learn the geography of the spirit and the many mansions in the being of the Father. If we concentrate we shall have power. If we meditate we shall lift ourselves above the dark environment of the brain. The inner shall become richer and more magical to us than the outer which has held us so long. How may I allure to this meditation those who see only by the light of day; who, when their eyes are shut, are as cave-dwellers living in a blackness beneath the hills? The cave of the body can be lit up. If we explore it we shall there find lights by which the lights of day are made dim. I perhaps to build on had some little gift of imagination I brought with me into the world, but I know others who had no natural vision who acquired this, and by
sustained meditation and by focussing the will to a burning-point, were raised above the narrow life of the body. Being an artist and a lover of visible beauty, I was often tempted from the highest meditation to contemplate, not divine being, but the mirage of forms. Yet because I was so bewitched and was curious about all I saw, I was made certain that the images which populate the brain have not always been there, nor are refashioned from things seen. I know that with the pictures of memory mingle pictures which come to us, sometimes from the minds of others, sometimes are glimpses of distant countries, sometimes are reflections of happenings in regions invisible to the outer eyes; and as meditation grows more exalted, the forms traceable to memory tend to disappear and we have access to a memory greater than our own, the treasure-house of august memories in the innumerable being of Earth. When minute analysis is made of images in the brain, those foolish fables about memory and imagination no longer affect those who begin this quest, and we see how many streams are tributary to our life. All I have said may be proved by any as curious about things of the mind
as I was, if they will but light the candle on their forehead and examine the denizens in the brain. They will find that their sphere is populous with the innermost thoughts of others, and will more and more be led by wonder and awe to believe that we and all things swim in an æther of deity, and that the least motion of our minds is incomprehensible except in memory of this: "In Him we live and move and have our being." Analysis of the simplest mental apparition will lead us often to stay ourselves on that thought. Once in an idle interval in my work I sat with my face pressed in my hands, and in that dimness pictures began flickering in my brain. I saw a little dark shop, the counter before me, and behind it an old man fumbling with some papers, a man so old that his motions had lost swiftness and precision. Deeper in the store was a girl, red-haired, with grey watchful eyes fixed on the old man. I saw that to enter the shop one must take two steps downwards from a cobbled pavement without. I questioned a young man, my office companion, who then was writing a letter, and I found that what I had seen was his father's shop. All my imaginations--the old man, his
yellow-white beard, his fumbling movements, the watchful girl, her colour, the steps, the cobbled pavement--were not imaginations of mine in any true sense, for while I was in a vacant mood my companion had been thinking of his home, and his brain was populous with quickened memories, and they invaded my own mind, and when I made question I found their origin. But how many thousand times are we invaded by such images and there is no speculation over them? Possibly I might have made use of such things in my art. I might have made a tale about the old man and girl. But if I had done so, if other characters had appeared in my tale who seemed just as living, where would they have come from? Would I have again been drawing upon the reservoir of my companion's memories? The vision of the girl and old man may in reality have been but a little part of the images with which my brain was flooded. Did I then see all, or might not other images in the same series emerge at some later time and the connection be lost? If I had written a tale and had imagined an inner room, an old mother. an absent son, a family trouble, might I not all the while be still adventuring in another's life? While
we think we are imagining a character we may, so marvellous are the hidden ways, be really interpreting a being actually existing, brought into psychic contact with us by some affinity of sentiment or soul.
I brooded once upon a friend not then knowing where he was, and soon I seemed to myself to be walking in the night. Nigh me was the Sphinx, and, more remote, a dim pyramid. Months later my friend came to Ireland. I found he had been in Egypt at the time I had thought of him. He could not recollect the precise day, but had while there spent a night beside the great monuments. I did not see him in vision, but I seemed to be walking there in the night. Why did the angle of vision change as with one moving about? Did I see through his eyes? Or did I see, as in the other incident, images reflected from his sphere to my own? Where does this vision end? What are its limitations? Would we, fully come to ourselves, be like those beings in the Apocalypse full of eyes within and without? Would we, in the fulness of power, act through many men and speak through many voices? Were Shakespeare and the great masters unconscious magi, blind visionaries, feeling
and comprehending a life they could not see, or who, if they saw, thought it was their own creation. We must ask ourselves these questions, for, when our lamp is lit, we find the house of our being has many chambers, and creatures live there who come and go, and we must ask whether they have the right to be in our house; and there are corridors there leading into the hearts of others, and windows which open into eternity, and we hardly can tell where our own being ends and another begins, or if there is any end to our being. If we brood with love upon this myriad unity, following the meditation ordained by Buddha for the brothers of his order, to let our minds pervade the whole wide world with heart of love, we come more and more to permeate, or to be pervaded by the lives of others. We are haunted by unknown comrades in many moods, whose naked souls pass through ours, and reveal themselves to us in an unforgettable instant, and we know them as we hardly know those who are the daily comrades of our heart, who, however intimate, are hidden from us by the husk of the body. As the inner life grows richer we beget more of these affinities. We wonder what relation
with them is rightly ours. Do we affect them by a sympathy unknown to them as they move us by a revelation more intimate than could be uttered by words? We discover in ourselves a new sense. By touch with the soul we understand. We realise how profound was that ancient wisdom which told us when we were perfected in concentration we could gain full comprehension of anything we wished by intent brooding. I never attained that perfectness of concentration, but I saw the possibilities in moments of electric intensity of will when I summoned out of the past a knowledge I desired. How is this knowledge possible? Is there a centre within us through which all the threads of the universe are drawn, a spiritual atom which mirrors the spiritual infinitudes even as the eye is a mirror of the external heavens? There is not a pin point in visible space which does not contain a microcosm of heaven and earth. We know that. for nowhere do we move where the eye does not receive its vision of infinity. Is it only in the visible world, this condensation of the infinite in the atomic, and not also in the soul and again in the spirit? What would the soul in its perfection mirror?
[paragraph continues] Would it reflect within itself the myriad life of humanity? Would the spirit mirror the heavens, and the imaginations of the Divine Mind well up within it in mystic and transcendental ideations? Or do they already mirror each their own world, and is all knowledge already within us, and is our need but for wisdom to create the links between portions of a single being, dramatically sundered by illusion as the soul is in dream? Is not the gathering of the will and the fiery brooding to this end, and are the glimpses we get of supernature caused but by the momentary uplifting of an eye, by which, when it is fully awakened, we dead shall be raised?