: these are the phases of all component things. Of such also is the life of man. Its curve arises from the latency of the fertilized ovum, say you, to a zenith whence it declines to the nullity of death? Rightly considered, this is not wholly truth. The life of man is but one segment of a serpentine curve which reaches out to infinity, and its zeros but mark the changes from the plus to minus, and minus to plus, coefficients of its equation. It is for this cause, among many others, that wise men in old time chose the Serpent as the Hieroglyph of Life.
Life then is indestructible as all else is. All destruction and construction are changes in the nature of Love, as I have written to you in the former chapter proximate. Yet even as the blood in one pulse-throb of the wrist is not the same blood as that in the next, so individuality is in part destroyed as each life passeth; nay, even with each thought.
What then maketh man, if he dieth and is reborn a changeling with each breath? This: the consciousness of continuity given by memory, the conception of his Self as something whose existence, far from being threatened by these changes, is in verity assured by them. Let then the aspirant to the sacred Wisdom consider his Self no more as one segment of the Serpent, but as the whole. Let him extend his consciousness to regard both birth and death as incidents trivial as systole and diastole of the heart itself, and necessary as they to its function.
To fix the mind in this apprehension of Life, two modes are preferred, as preliminary to the greater realizations to be discussed in their proper order, experiences which transcend even those attainments of Liberty and Love of which I have hitherto written, and this of Life which I now inscribe in this my little book which I am making for you so that you may come unto the Great Fulfilment.
The first mode is the acquisition of the Magical Memory so-called, and the means is described with accuracy and clearness in certain of our Holy Books.
But for nearly all men this is found to be a practice of exceeding difficulty. Let then the aspirant follow the impulse of his own Will in the decision to choose this or no.
The second mode is easy, agreeable, not tedious, and in the end as certain as the other. But as the way of error in the former lieth in Discouragement, so in the latter are you to be ware of False Paths. I may say indeed generally of all Works, that there are two dangers, the obstacle of Failure, and the snare of Success.
Now this second mode is to dissociate the beings which make up your life. Firstly, because it is easiest, you should segregate that Form which is called the Body of Light (and also by many other names) and set yourself to travel in this Form, making systematic exploration of those worlds which are to other material things what your own Body of Light is to your own material form.
Now it will occur to you in these travels that you come to many Gates which you are not able to pass. This is because your Body of Light is itself as yet not strong enough, or subtle enough, or pure enough: and you must then learn to dissociate the elements of that Body by a process similar to the first, your consciousness remaining in the higher and leaving the lower. In this practice do you continue, bending your Will like a great Bow to drive the Arrow of your consciousness through heavens ever higher and holier. But the continuance in this Way is itself of vital value: for it shall be that presently habit herself shall persuade you that the body which is born and dieth within so little a space as one cycle of Neptune in the Zodiac is no essential of your Self, that the Life of which you are become partaker, while itself subject to the Law of action and reaction, ebb and flow, systole and diastole, is yet insensible to the afflictions of that life which you formerly held to be your sole bond with Existence.
And here must you resolve your Self to make the mightiest endeavours: for so flowered are the meadows of this Eden, and so sweet the fruit of its orchards, that you will love to linger among them, and to take delight in sloth and dalliance therein. Therefore I write to you with energy that you should not do thus to the hindrance of your true progress, because all these enjoyments are dependent upon duality, so that their true name is Sorrow of Illusion, like that of the normal life of man, which you have set out to transcend.
Be it according to your Will, but learn this, that (as it is written) they only are happy who have desired the unattainable. It is then best, ultimately, if it be your Will to find alway your chiefest pleasure in Love, that is, in Conquest, and in Death, that is, in Surrender, as I have written to you already. Thus then you shall delight in these delights aforesaid, but only as toys, holding your manhood firm and keen to pierce to deeper and holier ecstasies without arrest of Will.
Furthermore, I would have you to know that in this practice, pursued with ardour unquenchable, is this especial grace, that you will come as it were by fortune into states which transcend the practice itself, being of the nature of those Works of Pure Light of which I will to write to you in the chapter following after this. For there be certain Gates which no being who is still conscious of dividuality, that is, of the Self and not-Self as opposites, may pass through: and in the storming of those Gates by fiery assault of lust celestial, your flame will burn vehemently against your gross Self, though it be already divine beyond your present imagining, and devour it in a mystical death, so that in the Passing of the Gate all is dissolved in formless Light of Unity.
Now then, returning from these states of being, and in the return also there is a Mystery of Joy, you will be weaned from the Milk of Darkness of the Moon, and made partaker of the Sacrament of Wine that is the blood of the Sun. Yet at the first there may be shock and conflict, for the old thought persists by force of its habit: it is for you to create by repeated act the true right habit of this consciousness of the Life which abideth in Light. And this is easy, if your will be strong: for the true Life is so much more vivid and quintessential than the false that (as I rudely estimate) one hour of the former makes an impression on the memory equal to one year of the latter. One single experience, in duration it may be but a few seconds of terrestrial time, is sufficient to destroy the belief in the reality of our vain life on earth: but this wears gradually away if the consciousness, through shock or fear, adhere not to it, and the Will strive not continually to repetition of that bliss, more beautiful and terrible than death, which it hath won by virtue of Love.
There be moreover many other modes of attaining the apprehension of true Life, and these two following are of much value in breaking up the ice of your mortal error in the vision of your being. And of these the first is the constant contemplation of the Identity of Love and Death, and the understanding of the dissolution of the body as an Act of Love done upon the Body of the Universe, as also it is written at length in our Holy Books. And with this goeth, as it were sister with twin brother, the practice of mortal love as a sacrament symbolical of that great Death: as it is written "Kill thyself": and again "Die daily."
And the second of these lesser modes is the practice of the mental apprehension and analysis of ideas, mainly as I have already taught you, but with especial emphasis in choice of things naturally repulsive, in particular, death itself, and its phenomena ancillary. Thus the Buddha bade his disciples to meditate upon Ten Impurities, that is, upon ten cases of death of decomposition, so that the Aspirant, identifying himself with his own corpse in all these imagined forms, might lose the natural horror, loathing, fear or disgust which he might have had for them. Know this, that every idea of every sort becomes unreal, phantastic, and most manifest illusion, if it be subjected to persistent investigation, with concentration. And this is particularly easy to attain in the case of all bodily impressions, because all material things, and especially those of which we are first conscious, namely, our own bodies, are the grossest and most unnatural of all falsities. For there is in us all, latent, that Light wherein no error may endure, and It already teaches our instinct to reject first of all those veils which are most closely wrapt about It. Thus also in meditation it is (for many men) most profitable to concentrate the Will to Love upon the sacred centres of nervous force: for they, like all things, are apt images or true reflexions of their semblables in finer spheres: so that, their gross natures being dissipated by the dissolving acid of the Meditation, their finer souls appear (so to speak) naked, and display their force and glory in the consciousness of the aspirant.
Yea, verily, let your Will to Love burn eagerly toward this creation in yourselves of the true Life that rolls its waves across the shoreless sea of Time! Live not your petty lives in fear of the hours! The Moon and Sun and Stars by which ye measure Time are themselves but servants of that Life which pulses in you, joyous drum-beat as you march triumphant through the Avenue of the Ages. Then, when each birth and death of yours are recognized in this perception as mere milestones on your ever-living Road, what of the foolish incidents of your mean lives? Are they not grains of sand blown by the desert wind, or pebbles that you spurn with your winged feet, or grassy hollows were you press the yielding and elastic turf and moss with lyrical dances? To him who lives in Life naught matters: his is eternal motion, energy, delight of never-failing Change: unwearied, you pass on from aeon to aeon, from star to star, the Universe your playground, its infinite variety of sport ever old and ever new. All those ideas which bred sorrow and fear are known in their truth, and thus become the seed of joy: for you are certain beyond all proof that you can never die; that, though you change, change is part of your own nature: the Great Enemy is become the Great Ally.
And now, rooted in this perfection, your Self become the very Tree of Life, you have a fulcrum for your lever: you are ready to understand that this pulsation of Unity is itself Duality, and therefore, in the highest and most sacred sense, still Sorrow and Illusion; which having comprehended, aspire yet again, even unto the Fourth of the Gifts of the Law, unto the End of the Path, even unto Light.