How can any one be a true spiritual guide wo has no spiritual powers, and who, perhaps, does not even know that such powers exist?
What would you think of a surgeon who knew nothing whatever of anatomy? What of a physician who did not know his patient? What of a blind painter, a deaf musician, an imbecile mathematician? What shall we think of a physician of the soul who knows nothing at all about the soul or its attributes, who has never seen it, and merely is of the opinion that exists? Have we not a right to doubt the usefulness of such a physician, and exclaim with Shakespeare, - 'Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it'!
If the inhabitants of our convents and monasteries, instead of employing the time and energy which they need for the performance of their customary ceremonies, for the saying of rosaries and the repetitious of litanies, etc., were to employ them for the purpose of acquiring self-knowledge, for the study of the essential constitution of man and of nature, and for the acquisition of spiritual power, their usefulness might be extended to an enormous extent. Their knowledge would be no longer restricted to earthly things, but expand to heaven; they would not need to nurse the sick, for they could cure them by the touch of their hands; they would not need to baptize people with water, for they could baptize them with spirit of sanctity; they would need to listen to confessions, for they would be able to read the thoughts of the culprit. Why should they not be able to do their duties much better if they were wise instead of ignorant; if they knew the truth instead of blindly accepting a creed; if they had the power to accomplish that which they now expect an invisible and unknown power to accomplish in response to their prayers? If the public believe that there is one miracle-working saint at a convent, do they not rush there to receive his or her blessings? What would be the fame of a convent composed entirely of saints whose powers could not be doubted?
But how can monks and nuns acquire such powers? How can they qualify themselves for such a study? It has been said that it is ten times more difficult to remove an old error than to find a truth; and there lies the difficulty. A page which is already full of writing will have to be cleanedbefore it can be written upon again. They would have to purge their minds of all dogmatism and sophistry before they can see the truth; they would have to become like children before they can enter the kingdom of heaven within their own souls. They would have to remove the mountain of rubbish which has accumulated in time in the vestibule of the temple, consisting of errors and superstitions, and in the corpses of forms from which the spirit has fled. Ages of ignorance have contributed to its growth, and it has become venerable by age. The inhabitants of the convent bare their heads and bend their knees when they approach that pile, and they do not dare to destroy it. To become wise, they would have to learn the true meaning of their own doctrines, symbols, and books, of which they at present merely know the outward form and the dead letter. They would have to form a much higher and nobles conception of God than to invest him wiht the attributes of semi-animal man. They would have to base their moral doctrines upon the instrinsic dignity of the divine principle in man, instead of appealing to the selfish desires of man and to his fear of punishment, to induce him to seek his salvation.
This may be accomplished in the far-distant future, but not at the present time. Ages and centuries will roll away before the sunlight of truth will penetrate trough the thick veil of materialism, which, like an icy crust, covers the true foundation of human religions. Look at the ice-fields of the Alps, covering the sides of the mountain, sometimes many miles in extension. They extend in solid block, perhaps more than a hundred feet thick, down to the valley. They are the products of centuries; and firm as the rock the ice appears; and yet these rigid and apparently immovable masses move and change from year to year. They grate the rocks upon which they rest, and they throw out that which is foreign. There may crack and fissures be seen at the top, and if, as happens sometimes, a man falls in one of these fissures, his remains may befound many years afterwars at the foot of the glacier, below the field of ice, having been spewed out by the latter.
Change, slow change, is going on everywhere in nature. Even in the most rigid and orthodox religious systems, in the most benighted hearts and heads, tehere is going on a continual change. Already the doctrines which were expounded in the pulpits of the Middle Ages have been modified to a certain extent. The proportions of the devil have shrunk so much that the people have almost ceased to fear him, and in the same degree as clerical power has diminished, the conception of God has assumed a grander aspect. Already the necessity of performing humanitarian labors has been to a certain extent recognized, and is by some considered to be of almost equal importance to the performance of the prescribed ceremonies. Still the change goes on, gradually but slowly; for there is a powerful giant who by his negation resists the decay of the pile of rubbish, and the name of this giant is Fashion. It is fashionable to support certain things, and therefore the masses support them.
Is the progressive part of the world going to wait until the legally appointed guardians of the truth have found out the true value of the treasure in their possession? Have we to wait until they have cleaned the jewel from the dark crust which they have permitted to accumulate around it for centuries? Messengers have arrived from the East, the land of light, where the sun of wisdom has risen, bringing with them costly moonlight pearls and treasures of liquid gold. Will their untold wealth be intrusted to the safe-keeping of those who possess the old and empty forms, or will the new wine be filled in new casks, because the old ones are rotten?
But why should those who begun to see the dawn of the day close their eyes and wait until the blind would inform them that the sun is rising over the mountains? Is love of the truth not strong enough to accomplish that which the fear of a dread hereafter has been able to accomplish ? Cannot be enlightened classes establish lay-convents, which would offer all the advantages of orthodox convents without the disadvantages of the latter? Could they not establish a garden, where the divine Lotus-flower of wisdom might grow and unfold its leaves, sheltered against the storms of passion raging beyond the walls, watered by the water of truth, whose spring is within; where the Tree of Life could unfold without being encumbered by the weeds of superstitions and errors; Where the soul could breathe the pure spiritual air, unadulterated by the odor of the poison-tree of ignorance, unmixed with the effluvia of decaying superstitions; a place where this Tree of Life, springing from the roots of the Tree of Knowledge, could grow and spread its branches, far up in the invisible realm where Wisdom resides, and producing fruits which cause those who partake of them to become like God and immortal...
An Adventure Among Rosicrucians by Franz Hartmann