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CHAPTER V

SELF-ADJUSTMENT



So, in a measure, you have found yourself: have retreated behind all
that flowing appearance, that busy, unstable consciousness with its
moods and obsessions, its feverish alternations of interest and apathy,
its conflicts and irrational impulses, which even the psychologists
mistake for You. Thanks to this recollective act, you have discovered
in your inmost sanctuary a being not wholly practical, who refuses to
be satisfied by your busy life of correspondences with the world of
normal men, and hungers for communion with a spiritual universe. And
this thing so foreign to your surface consciousness, yet familiar to it
and continuous with it, you recognise as the true Self whose existence
you always took for granted, but whom you have only known hitherto in
its scattered manifestations. "That art thou."

This climb up the mountain of self-knowledge, said the Victorine
mystics, is the necessary prelude to all illumination. Only at its
summit do we discover, as Dante did, the beginning of the pathway to
Reality. It is a lonely and an arduous excursion, a sufficient test of
courage and sincerity: for most men prefer to dwell in comfortable
ignorance upon the lower slopes, and there to make of their more
obvious characteristics a drapery which shall veil the naked truth.
True and complete self-knowledge, indeed, is the privilege of the
strongest alone. Few can bear to contemplate themselves face to face;
for the vision is strange and terrible, and brings awe and contrition
in its wake. The life of the seer is changed by it for ever. He is
converted, in the deepest and most drastic sense; is forced to take up
a new attitude towards himself and all other things. Likely enough, if
you really knew yourself--saw your own dim character, perpetually at
the mercy of its environment; your true motives, stripped for
inspection and measured against eternal values; your unacknowledged
self-indulgences; your irrational loves and hates--you would be
compelled to remodel your whole existence, and become for the first
time a practical man.

But you have done what you can in this direction; have at last
discovered your own deeper being, your eternal spark, the agent of all
your contacts with Reality. You have often read about it. Now you have
met it; know for a fact that it is there. What next? What changes, what
readjustments will this self-revelation involve for you?

You will have noticed, as with practice your familiarity with the state
of Recollection has increased, that the kind of consciousness which it
brings with it, the sort of attitude which it demands of you, conflict
sharply with the consciousness and the attitude which you have found so
appropriate to your ordinary life in the past. They make this old
attitude appear childish, unworthy, at last absurd. By this first
deliberate effort to attend to Reality you are at once brought face to
face with that dreadful revelation of disharmony, unrealness, and
interior muddle which the blunt moralists call "conviction of sin."
Never again need those moralists point out to you the inherent
silliness of your earnest pursuit of impermanent things: your solemn
concentration upon the game of getting on. None the less, this attitude
persists. Again and again you swing back to it. Something more than
realisation is needed if you are to adjust yourself to your new vision
of the world. This game which you have played so long has formed and
conditioned you, developing certain qualities and perceptions, leaving
the rest in abeyance: so that now, suddenly asked to play another,
which demands fresh movements, alertness of a different sort, your
mental muscles are intractable, your attention refuses to respond.
Nothing less will serve you here than that drastic remodelling of
character which the mystics call "Purgation," the second stage in the
training of the human consciousness for participation in Reality.

It is not merely that your intellect has assimilated, united with a
superficial and unreal view of the world. Far worse: your will, your
desire, the sum total of your energy, has been turned the wrong way,
harnessed to the wrong machine. You have become accustomed to the idea
that you want, or ought to want, certain valueless things, certain
specific positions. For years your treasure has been in the Stock
Exchange, or the House of Commons, or the Salon, or the reviews that
"really count" (if they still exist), or the drawing-rooms of Mayfair;
and thither your heart perpetually tends to stray. Habit has you in its
chains. You are not free. The awakening, then, of your deeper self,
which knows not habit and desires nothing but free correspondence with
the Real, awakens you at once to the fact of a disharmony between the
simple but inexorable longings and instincts of the buried spirit, now
beginning to assert themselves in your hours of meditation--pushing
out, as it were, towards the light--and the various changeful, but
insistent longings and instincts of the surface-self. Between these two
no peace is possible: they conflict at every turn. It becomes apparent
to you that the declaration of Plotinus, accepted or repeated by all
the mystics, concerning a "higher" and a "lower" life, and the cleavage
that exists between them, has a certain justification even in the
experience of the ordinary man.

That great thinker and ecstatic said, that all human personality was
thus two-fold: thus capable of correspondence with two orders of
existence. The "higher life" was always tending toward union with
Reality; towards the gathering of itself up into One. The "lower life,"
framed for correspondence with the outward world of multiplicity, was
always tending to fall downwards, and fritter the powers of the self
among external things. This is but a restatement, in terms of practical
existence, of the fact which Recollection brought home to us: that the
human self is transitional, neither angel nor animal, capable of living
towards either Eternity or Time. But it is one thing to frame beautiful
theories on these subjects: another when the unresolved dualism of your
own personality (though you may not give it this high-sounding name)
becomes the main fact of consciousness, perpetually reasserts itself as
a vital problem, and refuses to take academic rank.

This state of things means the acute discomfort which ensues on being
pulled two ways at once. The uneasy swaying of attention between two
incompatible ideals, the alternating conviction that there is something
wrong, perverse, poisonous, about life as you have always lived it, and
something hopelessly ethereal about the life which your innermost
inhabitant wants to live--these disagreeable sensations grow stronger
and stronger. First one and then the other asserts itself. You
fluctuate miserably between their attractions and their claims; and
will have no peace until these claims have been met, and the apparent
opposition between them resolved. You are sure now that there is
another, more durable and more "reasonable," life possible to the human
consciousness than that on which it usually spends itself. But it is
also clear to you that you must yourself be something more, or other,
than you are now, if you are to achieve this life, dwell in it, and
breathe its air. You have had in your brief spells of recollection a
first quick vision of that plane of being which Augustine called "the
land of peace," the "beauty old and new." You know for evermore that it
exists: that the real thing within yourself belongs to it, might live
in it, is being all the time invited and enticed to it. You begin, in
fact, to feel and know in every fibre of your being the mystical need
of "union with Reality"; and to realise that the natural scene which
you have accepted so trustfully cannot provide the correspondences
toward which you are stretching out.

Nevertheless, it is to correspondences with this natural order that you
have given for many years your full attention, your desire, your will.
The surface-self, left for so long in undisputed possession of the
conscious field, has grown strong, and cemented itself like a limpet to
the rock of the obvious; gladly exchanging freedom for apparent
security, and building up, from a selection amongst the more concrete
elements offered it by the rich stream of life, a defensive shell of
"fixed ideas." It is useless to speak kindly to the limpet. You must
detach it by main force. That old comfortable clinging life, protected
by its hard shell from the living waters of the sea, must now come to
an end. A conflict of some kind--a severance of old habits, old
notions, old prejudices--is here inevitable for you; and a decision as
to the form which the new adjustments must take.

Now although in a general way we may regard the practical man's
attitude to existence as a limpet-like adherence to the unreal; yet,
from another point of view, fixity of purpose and desire is the last
thing we can attribute to him. His mind is full of little whirlpools,
twists and currents, conflicting systems, incompatible desires. One
after another, he centres himself on ambition, love, duty, friendship,
social convention, politics, religion, self-interest in one of its
myriad forms; making of each a core round which whole sections of his
life are arranged. One after another, these things either fail him or
enslave him. Sometimes they become obsessions, distorting his judgment,
narrowing his outlook, colouring his whole existence. Sometimes they
develop inconsistent characters which involve him in public
difficulties, private compromises and self-deceptions of every kind.
They split his attention, fritter his powers. This state of affairs,
which usually passes for an "active life," begins to take on a
different complexion when looked at with the simple eye of meditation.
Then we observe that the plain man's world is in a muddle, just because
he has tried to arrange its major interests round himself as round a
centre; and he is neither strong enough nor clever enough for the job.
He has made a wretched little whirlpool in the mighty River of
Becoming, interrupting--as he imagines, in his own interest--its even
flow: and within that whirlpool are numerous petty complexes and
counter-currents, amongst which his will and attention fly to and fro
in a continual state of unrest. The man who makes a success of his
life, in any department, is he who has chosen one from amongst these
claims and interests, and devoted to it his energetic powers of heart
and will; "unifying" himself about it, and from within it resisting all
counter-claims. He has one objective, one centre; has killed out the
lesser ones, and simplified himself.

Now the artist, the discoverer, the philosopher, the lover, the
patriot--the true enthusiast for any form of life--can only achieve the
full reality to which his special art or passion gives access by
innumerable renunciations. He must kill out the smaller centres of
interest, in order that his whole will, love, and attention may pour
itself out towards, seize upon, unite with, that special manifestation
of the beauty and significance of the universe to which he is drawn.
So, too, a deliberate self-simplification, a "purgation" of the heart
and will, is demanded of those who would develop the form of
consciousness called "mystical." All your power, all your resolution,
is needed if you are to succeed in this adventure: there must be no
frittering of energy, no mixture of motives. We hear much of the
mystical temperament, the mystical vision. The mystical character is
far more important: and its chief ingredients are courage, singleness
of heart, and self-control. It is towards the perfecting of these
military virtues, not to the production of a pious softness, that the
discipline of asceticism is largely directed; and the ascetic
foundation, in one form or another, is the only enduring foundation of
a sane contemplative life.

You cannot, until you have steadied yourself, found a poise, and begun
to resist some amongst the innumerable claims which the world of
appearance perpetually makes upon your attention and your desire, make
much use of the new power which Recollection has disclosed to you; and
this Recollection itself, so long as it remains merely a matter of
attention and does not involve the heart, is no better than a psychic
trick. You are committed therefore, as the fruit of your first attempts
at self-knowledge, to a deliberate--probably a difficult--rearrangement
of your character; to the stern course of self-discipline, the
voluntary acts of choice on the one hand and of rejection on the other,
which ascetic writers describe under the formidable names of Detachment
and Mortification. By Detachment they mean the eviction of the limpet
from its crevice; the refusal to anchor yourself to material things, to
regard existence from the personal standpoint, or confuse custom with
necessity. By Mortification, they mean the resolving of the turbulent
whirlpools and currents of your own conflicting passions, interests,
desires; the killing out of all those tendencies which the peaceful
vision of Recollection would condemn, and which create the fundamental
opposition between your interior and exterior life.

What then, in the last resort, is the source of this opposition; the
true reason of your uneasiness, your unrest? The reason lies, not in
any real incompatibility between the interests of the temporal and the
eternal orders; which are but two aspects of one Fact, two expressions
of one Love. It lies solely in yourself; in your attitude towards the
world of things. You are enslaved by the verb "to have": all your
reactions to life consist in corporate or individual demands,
appetites, wants. That "love of life" of which we sometimes speak is
mostly cupboard-love. We are quick to snap at her ankles when she locks
the larder door: a proceeding which we dignify by the name of
pessimism. The mystic knows not this attitude of demand. He tells us
again and again, that "he is rid of all his asking"; that "henceforth
the heat of having shall never scorch him more." Compare this with your
normal attitude to the world, practical man: your quiet certitude that
you are well within your rights in pushing the claims of "the I, the
Me, the Mine"; your habit, if you be religious, of asking for the
weather and the government that you want, of persuading the Supernal
Powers to take a special interest in your national or personal health
and prosperity. How often in each day do you deliberately revert to an
attitude of disinterested adoration? Yet this is the only attitude in
which true communion with the universe is possible. The very mainspring
of your activity is a demand, either for a continued possession of that
which you have, or for something which as yet you have not: wealth,
honour, success, social position, love, friendship, comfort, amusement.
You feel that you have a right to some of these things: to a certain
recognition of your powers, a certain immunity from failure or
humiliation. You resent anything which opposes you in these matters.
You become restless when you see other selves more skilful in the game
of acquisition than yourself. You hold tight against all comers your
own share of the spoils. You are rather inclined to shirk boring
responsibilities and unattractive, unremunerative toil; are greedy of
pleasure and excitement, devoted to the art of having a good time. If
you possess a social sense, you demand these things not only for
yourself but for your tribe--the domestic or racial group to which you
belong. These dispositions, so ordinary that they almost pass
unnoticed, were named by our blunt forefathers the Seven Deadly Sins of
Pride, Anger, Envy, Avarice, Sloth, Gluttony, and Lust. Perhaps you
would rather call them--as indeed they are--the seven common forms of
egotism. They represent the natural reactions to life of the
self-centred human consciousness, enslaved by the "world of
multiplicity"; and constitute absolute barriers to its attainment of
Reality. So long as these dispositions govern character we can never
see or feel things as they are; but only as they affect ourselves, our
family, our party, our business, our church, our empire--the I, the Me,
the Mine, in its narrower or wider manifestations. Only the detached
and purified heart can view all things--the irrational cruelty of
circumstance, the tortures of war, the apparent injustice of life, the
acts and beliefs of enemy and friend--in true proportion; and reckon
with calm mind the sum of evil and good. Therefore the mystics tell us
perpetually that "selfhood must be killed" before Reality can be
attained.

"Feel sin a lump, thou wottest never what, but none other thing than
thyself," says The Cloud of Unknowing. "When the I, the Me, and the
Mine are dead, the work of the Lord is done," says Kabir. The substance
of that wrongness of act and relation which constitutes "sin" is the
separation of the individual spirit from the whole; the ridiculous
megalomania which makes each man the centre of his universe. Hence
comes the turning inwards and condensation of his energies and desires,
till they do indeed form a "lump"; a hard, tight core about which all
the currents of his existence swirl. This heavy weight within the heart
resists every outgoing impulse of the spirit; and tends to draw all
things inward and downward to itself, never to pour itself forth in
love, enthusiasm, sacrifice. "So long," says the Theologia Germanica,
"as a man seeketh his own will and his own highest good, because it is
his, and for his own sake, he will never find it: for so long as he
doeth this, he is not seeking his own highest good, and how then should
he find it? For so long as he doeth this, he seeketh himself, and
dreameth that he is himself the highest good. . . . But whosoever
seeketh, loveth, and pursueth goodness, as goodness and for the sake of
goodness, and maketh that his end--for nothing but the love of
goodness, not for love of the I, Me, Mine, Self, and the like--he will
find the highest good, for he seeketh it aright, and they who seek it
otherwise do err."

So it is disinterestedness, the saint's and poet's love of things for
their own sakes, the vision of the charitable heart, which is the
secret of union with Reality and the condition of all real knowledge.
This brings with it the precious quality of suppleness, the power of
responding with ease and simplicity to the great rhythms of life; and
this will only come when the ungainly "lump" of sin is broken, and the
verb "to have," which expresses its reaction to existence, is ejected
from the centre of your consciousness. Then your attitude to life will
cease to be commercial, and become artistic. Then the guardian at the
gate, scrutinising and sorting the incoming impressions, will no longer
ask, "What use is this to me?" before admitting the angel of beauty or
significance who demands your hospitality. Then things will cease to
have power over you. You will become free. "Son," says à Kempis, "thou
oughtest diligently to attend to this; that in every place, every
action or outward occupation, thou be inwardly free and mighty in
thyself, and all things be under thee, and thou not under them; that
thou be lord and governor of thy deeds, not servant." It is therefore
by the withdrawal of your will from its feverish attachment to things,
till "they are under thee and thou not under them," that you will
gradually resolve the opposition between the recollective and the
active sides of your personality. By diligent self-discipline, that
mental attitude which the mystics sometimes call poverty and sometimes
perfect freedom--for these are two aspects of one thing--will become
possible to you. Ascending the mountain of self-knowledge and throwing
aside your superfluous luggage as you go, you shall at last arrive at
the point which they call the summit of the spirit; where the various
forces of your character--brute energy, keen intellect, desirous
heart--long dissipated amongst a thousand little wants and preferences,
are gathered into one, and become a strong and disciplined instrument
wherewith your true self can force a path deeper and deeper into the
heart of Reality.
__________________________________________________________________




If written today this chapter might have required another title for its content is quite different from what we have learned to call "self adjustment."  The reality  we are used to is quite different from the Reality Underhill suggests we try to "adjust" to.

We are being asked to replace our "false self" (which i call ego) with the "True Self" which Genesis calls the Image of God in which we were created.  This requires rigor and vigor, "courage, singleness of heart, and self-control.

Purgation is the word she chooses to describe the process of cleansing required to begin to clear the windows and doors of perception.

Early on she suggests the world of appearances and Reality are incompatable, but near the end of the chapter she finds this incompatability exists only in our perceptions.  Disinterested adoration is the only attitude from which communion with the Universe is possible. 

She ends with a little discourse on sin and a great line from the Theological Germanica: "So long as a man seeketh his own will and highest good, because it is his and for his own sake,he will never find it; ... for ... he seeketh himself and dreameth that
he is himself the highest good."

"The vision of the charitable heart is the secret to union with the Real, and the condition of all real knowledge." p.44.

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