PROGRESS IN THE ORDER
By V.H. Sor. F.e.R. (Annie Horniman)
A few words on the natural wish to make progress in our Order may interest some of those who have just joined us and also whose efforts seem to lead to little or no result.
Of course the experience of each one is unique, and must be so; no one could have been led into the path of serious occult study without a certain determination of character, and in most cases the necessity of overcoming opposition at the outset, is a test in itself, which shows individuality and fixity of purpose. Naturally, when first asked to join and told that he is considered suitable, the Candidate feels strongly that he must be rather a remarkable person to be so chosen. That was the first stage with me, and it lasted until I was actually admitted into the Order nearly two years later. Of course some spiritual gifts are necessary to make true progress, but it is very hard to judge which person has them or even to tell our own power until time and training have developed the tendencies hidden in our innermost natures. At first it is probable that the Neophyte will exaggerate every little astral incident that happens and the only way to fight against that temptation is to force the mind to serious study so as to gain strength; and by the power which will come gradually to the earnest student, to learn to distinguish the false from the real, the Astral from the Spiritual.
The uncongenial spiritual surroundings in which most of us are obliged to live out our lives have their uses; we learn to concentrate our minds amidst the distractions which are the more dangerous to our progress when they are not in active opposition to it.
For the first few weeks the secrecy enforced on us by our Obligation is a novelty, but when the Knowledge in the first lecture is learned and found to be information easily gained from other sources, a questioning feeling arises as to the need of so much fuss about labels for MSS, mottoes to be used instead of names etc. etc. If we look a little closer, however, it will appear only reasonable; we must be trained to be silent and perfectly discreet, so that secrecy will be no effort to us, when after much labour and many struggles we are gradually entrusted with the hidden knowledge belonging to the higher Grades of our Order.
Some of the obstacles which keep the Fratres and Sorores in the lower Grades are quite trivial in themselves and might be easily overcome by an effort of Will; but they do not realise that the fault lies in themselves and put down the fact of their standstill to many other causes. If our Order be anything deeper and higher than a mere club for the dissemination of archaeological and literary knowledge, the obstacles to be overcome must be more subtle than those which come between us and success in the ordinary aims of life.
Acts which were meaningless trivialities before are serious matters to a Frater or Soror who is truly striving to rise as high as possible during this life. Habits of indecision and caprice in the minor matters of conduct have a great cumulative force and weaken the will and leave us open to astral influences which must be conquered as completely as our present strength allows. A strong feeling of disinclination for study at convenient times, once given way to, grows into indolence, and then when each succeeding lecture if found to be more difficult, the thought that perhaps it is not worthwhile after all, creeps in and gradually the student loses interest and occult study becomes tedious to him. On the contrary, great opposition and difficulty spur us on in this, as in any other, course, and when the opportunities for study have to be made they are seldom neglected. Do not accept the excuses you feel inclined to make to yourselvesóthat you have to live alone amongst people who are only hindrances, that no one takes particular interest in your progress, or that you will have more time bye and bye.
Not one of us has any time to lose; youth and strength do not last us very long, and the present opportunities may never arise again. Work done to please or gain approbation from another is not what we want, but that real enthusiasm which overcomes difficulties and grows the stronger because of them. Naturally, members of higher Grades take a personal interest in those with whom they are connected by social ties, but sometimes that is a source of disappointment. Each must strive upwards by himself, for himself, no help can take away the real difficulties, for they are the tests which must be passed, and by which our spiritual fitness for Higher Things is shown. Uncongenial surroundings are an obstacle, because they seem to waste the strength, but is it truly as difficult to work when unhappy after the performance of burdensome duties, as to overcome the far more insinuating influences that come into play when all seems smooth before us? Sometimes in those painful surroundings there are others also struggling towards the light which we are longing to reach ourselves; we may not as yet be able to help except by sympathy and kindliness; but when the time comes, then we can stretch forth a helping hand with a full understanding of the need for assistance.
To those who have made some little progress the true prosperity of our Order is very dear, and we look back with real gratitude to those who watched us until they thought fit, and then brought us in to what has become a great and important part of our lives. In some cases it was an intimate friend, in others a comparative stranger whose acquaintance at first seemed to be of very little importance.
Of course, we are often disappointed; when beginners ourselves we were most anxious for those dear to us to come in also, but as time goes on we see how rare are the qualities required and we find that we must have great patience and hope in regard to our friends, who as yet do not want to sympathise with our Hermetic aims.
Those who expect worldly or social gain for themselves through this Order will be disappointed, yet none of us who have made sacrifices for it in a right spirit are disappointed with the result.
To some natures ceremonies are repulsive, to others they are most attractive. They are part of the necessary discipline which insists upon us all being treated exactly alike, which seems arbitrary to some minds, yet without it, we could be trained to understand those causes which lie behind the ordinary events of life and form our characters for good or evil.
We must all take courage and look our difficulties full in the face, neither magnifying them nor avoiding them; and we shall find in many cases that a little self-denial, a little exertion of Will, or even a little commonplace prudence will vanquish them completely. Nothing impossible will ever be asked of any of you, but what will be possible to each of you is in the Future, none can say exactly what. With knowledge will come strength, and then experience will follow and the power and the wish to use that Knowledge rightly.
It is a gradual process, and often a painful one to experience, but well worth the sorrows to be borne and the difficulties to be overcome by the earnest student.