Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
WHAT generally happens in life is this: man acknowledges what he should not acknowledge, and he does not acknowledge what he should acknowledge. As a rule it is best never to acknowledge a fact that one does not wish to give life to. For instance, when a person begins to see that his friend is not as kind, not as affectionate as he ought to be as a friend, as soon as he acknowledges it he at once gives substance to something which so far has been only a shadow. A person who feels, 'Everyone in my family, in my surroundings, dislikes me, disapproves of me. I have a tiring effect upon them,' certainly gives life to that fact.
Once a friend came to me and said, 'I do not know what bad planet is exerting its influence upon me, but for the last three years everything I touch has gone wrong. Nothing that I touch brings success or pleasure.' I said, 'I am very sorry you have come so late. Yet it is not too late. But for three years you have added fuel to this fire.' Then he asked, 'How did I add fuel to this fire?' I answered, 'By acknowledging it.' If we acknowledge every little fact that has a bad effect upon our life, we give it life from our own, and thus make it a living thing. And so it is with many illnesses. Very often people get into the habit of saying, 'Oh, I am so tired!' It is not necessary for them to cut wood or carry stones. They will be tired before doing it. No sooner do they think of tiredness than it is there. There are many cases in which there is no need to be tired. One becomes tired only by the fact of having acknowledged it. It is the same with sleeplessness. Once one acknowledges to oneself that one cannot sleep, that is enough to keep one awake all night. There are many illnesses of this kind, and chief among them is depression.
To the one who acknowledges this life to be his friend, life will prove to be his friend. To the one who acknowledges this life to be his enemy, life will prove in every way to be his enemy. There are many who take notice of those who are working against them, and by taking notice they make them do it even more, because they make an impression upon them. One might ask if there does not exist any animosity in people if one does not think about it. It may exist, but by taking notice of it, by acknowledging it, one gives life to it. If one does not acknowledge it, it will die in time. For animosity is a fire, but not a perpetual fire. It is the acknowledging which gives fuel to the fire. If one does not acknowledge it, the fire will be extinguished. Many might say that it is hypocrisy not to acknowledge a fact. But that hypocrisy is better than the truth. In point of fact one would not call it hypocrisy if one knew its meaning, its worth. The doctor who, even when he sees that his patient has a high fever, tells him, 'It is all right, it is nothing,' is not a hypocrite. By saying that there is a high fever, he will certainly increase the fever of the patient. And many doctors do so. Everything a physician or a religious man does to make a person who is on his deathbed think of death, only encourages him towards death, he is pushing him towards death. One could prove a greater friend to someone who is on his deathbed by not acknowledging his trouble, his difficulty, his coming death. I have known cases in which, as soon as the doctor said that he had given up hope, the whole family began to talk about it to the patient, and his departure was hastened by many months.
What should we acknowledge? That which we always escape from acknowledging, that is to say our faults. By acknowledging our faults we shall kill them. But it is the one thing we want to hide that we want to keep hidden even from our own sight. To look one's own fault in the face is the best thing one can do. To analyze it, to weigh it, to measure it, and to understand it better. By this one either destroys it or understands it, or one turns the same fault into merit. Very often people think it is wise to say to someone, 'No, you are not my friend. You have not been very attentive or kind to me.' When a person tells another such things, he will inspire that person with them, even if they did not exist before. Besides all misfortunes, all dangers that threaten and frighten man, are very often not as great as man thinks and can be avoided if man did not acknowledge them. For how a person feels about the danger depends upon the particular pitch to which the heart is tuned. For instance if ten people were standing before the same danger and one could weigh their fear, one would find that each of them had a very different degree of fear.
Once when the Prophet Muhammad and his followers were exiled, his enemies were pursuing them in the desert. They were standing behind a rock when suddenly the galloping of many horses was heard. 'O, Prophet,' said one of the disciples, 'they are pursuing us. They are many, there is a whole army behind us.' 'Oh they are going somewhere else,' said the Prophet, 'they will go in some other direction'. 'But what shall we do if they come here?' said the disciple. 'They are so many, and we are only two!' 'Are we only two?' said the Prophet, 'no, three: you, I, and God.'
Everyone does not look at danger from the same point of view. To one the smallest thing is too great, to another the greatest thing is nothing. It is according to how one views it. Once one sees the danger as being great, one will make it greater. But by not acknowledging the greatness of the danger one will diminish it. When conditions have gone so far that it is most difficult to overcome the trouble, then one has to get them under control again, yet by making a great fuss over it we shall not make the trouble any less; on the contrary it will become greater.
There is an amusing story which explains this. Not long ago there was a Prime Minister of Hyderabad. He belonged to one of the ancient princely families who carried with them a certain ideal of manners and culture. Once when he was sitting at table entertaining some foreign friends, it happened that a part of the palace caught fire. As it was the custom not to come hurriedly when bringing any news, the aide-de-camp came very gently, between the courses, and he whispered in his ear what was happening. To the great surprise of the aide-de-camp the Prime Minister only said, 'Yes?' and went on with the next course which had arrived. And then when that was served, he asked his guests to excuse him and said, 'I will come back in a moment.' Quietly he went, as if nothing had happened, giving orders what to do to extinguish the fire, and then came back quietly. A great part of the palace had already burned, but the guests left without having noticed anything. Next day they read in the paper about the fire. They were very surprised to see such a thing, such patience, such self-control, such mastery. It did not mean that the minister did not feel the loss. He felt it perhaps more than anyone else could have felt it, but he did not show it. It was not his way to jump up and make a fuss for nothing. Suppose he had done as everyone does, what would he have achieved? He would have excited the others also, and made things worse. It was better that the palace should be on fire than the spirit.
There is another thing that one should acknowledge. One should acknowledge in one's friend, in one's companion, in those one wishes to help, the good part in their character. By acknowledging it, by noticing it one will fortify it; it will become greater. And do not think that it is against humility to acknowledge even one's own merits; for if one is unconscious of one's merits the plant is suffering there without water. It does not mean that by acknowledging one's merit, one's virtue, one becomes proud or conceited. If one wants to, one can keep oneself free from pride or conceit. But by recognizing one's merit one certainly waters the plant which is worth rearing.
This same method can be extended from psychology to esotericism. In esotericism we have a problem before us. There is a truth which we have to discover, which is obscured by a fact; and if we become accustomed to deny a fact in order to discover a truth, we will be ready then in esoteric work to discover that truth which is worth discovering. The fact is a shadow which for the moment represents something which has a certain meaning attached to it which we can witness, but which at the same time will not continue to be real for ever. For instance a person says, 'Sandow,1 in fact, is a strong man.' Yes it is a fact that he is a strong man, but because he will not be eternally strong it is only a fact, it is not a truth. Therefore the knowledge of the existence of others, all this knowledge that we have is a changeable knowledge, and since it is changeable it is a fact; truth is behind it. But when we discover within our own self and in others that something which is everlasting and will never change, that is the truth. The one who understands this will understand the meaning of all the concentrations and meditations which are studied and practiced by the Sufis; they are all one means for one purpose; they are all in order to deny fact, in order to establish truth.
1) Eugene Sandow: famous as a 'strong man' and inventor of a system of physical fitness in the early 1900's.