Life proceeds forwards, slowly, by way of enquiry and discovery.7 min read

Life proceeds forwards, slowly, by way of enquiry and discovery. As man enquires, he discovers law after law, natural, aesthetic, scientific and spiritual, and in so far as he submits to and applies these laws he is free to move forward to the supreme discovery for which purpose he was made, the discovery of the One secondless Principle, God. The spirit of enquiry is the underlying force prompting all sincere and hardworking men in their activities, and as the field enlarges so must the mental instrument expand. Man enriches his sensual, perceptual apprehension by means of finer and more intricate instruments to embrace the astronomical and the microscopic, and he draws conclusions about the physical world. He extends his conceptual apprehension by means of propositions, formulae and equations, and reaches, through metaphysics and mathematics, intellectual conclusions beyond the range of his sensual faculties. He extends and refines his emotional nature by submitting to aesthetic or religious disciplines and practices, and reaches intuitive conclusions of the Divine Ground, offering them to the world in symbol and analogy.

What is the purpose of this ceaseless endeavour, all these many movements of the mind, outward, upward and inward ? Were the first sea animals merely discontented with the water, that they struggled so many thousands of years to acquire legs ? What did the land animals that grew wings, hope to find in the air ? What is the great evolutionary movement but a movement of enquiry and discovery, the urge to see what is on the other side of the mountain ? The desire to know, to penetrate further and deeper in every direction is, in the last analysis, the desire to discover the fountain of Life, the Causeless Cause, the substratum and activator of the countless patterns and rhythms of the physical universe.

The urge to know has been the seed that has borne the fruit of all man’s achievements on this planet. When the spirit of enquiry is upon him, man will subject himself entirely to it : he will endure acute physical discomfort and court both public disapproval and extreme danger, in order that he may discover in fact, what he believes in theory. Inertia, idiosyncrasy and individual considerations become swallowed up in the ever-increasing, magnetic pull, by which pure Knowledge, in the form of the Grace of God, draws the spirit of man up into itself. The ages of the world are so many layers of unknowing, covering the bedrock of Certainty, the self-luminous Truth itself. Gradually the layers thin out, intuitions are verified, intimations proved. As the sea animals left the water for the land, so must man leave the limited mental realm in Time and Space, and fit himself for the region of Pure Consciousness beyond the mind, if his evolutionary progress is to be maintained and his destiny fulfilled.

Goethe, one of the world’s great enquirers into both the external and internal worlds, divined that we have within us something that seems like perfect freedom of will, and again something which seems to counterbalance this freedom. Man has, the Vedantin believes, this autonomy in the Consciousness that is his birthright, but that he is born with a counteracting natural ignorance that hides this knowledge from him. Enquiry is the means by which we battle with our own ignorance, Discovery is the victorious outcome of all our conflicts, and it is the Destiny of all men. But enquiry must be balanced all along the way, by application and modification. To evolve we must adapt and modify ourselves to fit the patterns we have discovered, as the primitive birds developed feathers against the cold before they grew wings that they might fly. Similarly man cannot fly into the finer air of the spirit, until he is fitted with the protective clothing of love, right living, equilibrium and detachment. If we enquire and fail to apply the results of our enquiry in the right way, we shall be wanderers rather than explorers.

Adhyatma Yoga, which has systematized this enquiry according to the testimony of those who have discovered, believes in One Reality, called Brahman, in which all the atoms of the physical universe and all the thoughts and activities of men from the beginning of time abide, and to which they owe their life. It is ignorance (avidya) in the mind of man, that has broken up this one Reality into so many objects and individuals, each excluding the other and contributing to all the misunderstandings of existence. Our enquiry must therefore be directed to the cause of obstruction to the knowledge of Truth. Our application must be directed to the removal of the obstruction, and then our discovery will be the knowledge of the Real Self of Man, free, blissful and immortal.

Reality, being absolute, can neither be described or defined, but it can be conveyed relatively in the form of Light. Thus has Truth always been to Ignorance as Light to Darkness. Until flashes of light are seen in the darkness, darkness must be our entire world. But flashes of light do strike the world all the time, for instance in the miracle of birth, in the splendour of the rainbow, of sun on snow, in the masterpieces of literature, music and art, in disinterested acts of love and heroism. It is an all too common experience, however, to imagine that because life appears to be relative and dual, that it really must be so, that it must be a constant spectacle of light and shade, of pleasure and pain, satisfaction alternating with dissatisfaction. Yet if we accept this duality, if we take the world at its face value, it means that we are dead to the spirit of enquiry. Man does not, we believe, actually prefer to carry on a partial existence, punctuated by depression and distress. Rooted in relativity, he is merely ignorant that an absolute value is present in his own being, and he cannot discover this truth, until he begins to enquire into the nature of his own Self.

If there is one non-dual Reality expressed as Light, how, it may be argued can its opposite Darkness be said to exist ? The concept of Light and Darkness would appear to imply duality. Now the Light of God, being beyond the mind cannot be described by the mind. Darkness, however, itself a product of the mind can be subject to analysis.

Let us use for a moment the method of the French Impressionist painter, who sought to express his vision of Light, by analysing darkness or shadow and finding it to be itself a component part of light. Before French impressionism, unity was given to a painting through its composition, form, colour and subject matter. Light was used to heighten, to emphasise, and shadow was used to model, to give an illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional canvas, and the shadows deepened with the centuries. The Impressionist, being concerned primarily with light, sought, however, to give unity to his conception by breaking up the old notion of contrasting shadow and interpreting it as a phenomena of light. Objects were to be seen not as objects in themselves, but only in so far as they were enveloped by light or as they reflected light, which was the subject of the painting. The effect of light on natural objects, became the subject of a methodical analysis. Nature was seen to be radiant with light, and to express this, the specific colours of objects were broken down into strokes of complementary colour contrasts. Unity was established by using colours having a natural affinity with each other, and the aim was to express not the power of light to differentiate, but its power to coalesce.

In like manner, the illumined sage sees a single vision of the Light of Truth, revealing all things, unifying all things and reflecting itself. Good and evil, sinner and saint, joy and suffering are seen as complementary colour contrasts, all contributing to the expression of the Principle they serve. Apparent ills are thus broken up, transformed and made translucent in the light of Knowledge. It is the purpose of the seer to stimulate enquiry in others that they may share his vision and discover the natural affinities of all men, that the shadows of existence may be broken up and re-interpreted as particles of pure light in the radiance of God.