Be hopeful then, not despairing. With each morning's awakening try to live through the day in harmony with the Higher Self. "Try" is the battle-cry taught by the teacher to each pupil. Naught else is expected of you. One who does his best does all that can be asked.
One of the urgent needs today, to lessen the confusion and turmoil of our world, is to restore to man faith in the possibility of his own redemption. Face to face with the selfishness evidenced almost everywhere, confronted by the evils of corruption, deceit. and injustice, there is a grwing sense of discouragement which threatens to become despair. This paralyses effort. Nothing seems worth while any more, not even trying to improve one's own character.
It is at such periods of stress, when darkness envelopes the world, that a reaffirmation of man's potential divinity becomes most necessary. No matter how low humanity may have sunk through abject egotism and ugly sin, we should never despair; for in each one there is a spark of divinity and that can be reawakened, however completely dormant it may be today. Let each begin in himself, with himself. Let him look within and endeavour to rediscover his own true Self. "Awake, arise, seek the Great Ones, and learn."
The first lesson the Great Ones teach is that it is possible to redeem ourselves. They speak to us, not as we are now, weak, foolish, ignorant, and even wicked, but as we can become. And that Image of the New Man they place before us, they also show us how to attain.
In this process of self-redemption, of renewal and regeneration, true ideals are essential. The highest and noblest ideals have been reiterated by all great Teachers down the ages. We can use these ideals to elevate our consciousness, to cleanse our minds and to purify our hearts, thus activating our latent divinity.
But what is an ideal? According to the definition found in the dictionary, an ideal is that which is in accordance with one's most exalted imagination or conception. It is that which embodies one's highest standard of excellence. In philosophy, idealism is the theory which affirms that mind, or the spiritual and ideal, is of central importance in reality. To the idealist, reality is essentially spiritual because it embodies mind and reason. An idealist formulates ideals and lives under their influence. He deliberately exposes his mind to their current, exactly as a person who feels cold exposes himself to the rays of the sun, or one in a dark room lights a lamp. The idealist makes his mind receptive to the influence of his Higher Self and thus draws to himself its light and its radiance.
An idealist, in the philosophical sense, is thus a truly practical person. On the other hand, one who rejects ideals on the plea that he wants to be independent, or because he is not able to live up to them, is being very impractical and suffering from conceit, or from fear, or from both.
History and experience bear witness to the guiding part ideals play in the progress of humanity. An ideal that finds a responsive echo in our own heart can revolutionize our life and transform our nature. Let us set up a high ideal and make it our own by endearouring to live up to it, to translate it into daily practice. Nor need we be deterred by awe at the sublimity of such an ideal. The very fact that we are able to respond means that we have in us the capacity ultimately to attain it. To adopt a noble ideal is the first step, and the longest journey must begin with that first step. The goal may loom far, far away, but a beginning has been made and to keep on striving is in itself an achievement.
The power of true Ideals is a triple one. There is first the power inherent in the Ideal itself. A true Ideal is an actual fact, a living archetype that radiates its own magnetic quality and sheds its beneficent influence upon humanity.
In the second place, such an Ideal, through this radiation, draws out from within everyone who accepts it and reflects upon it that which is consubstantial with its own quality. As the light and the warmth of the sun draw out the potency hidden in the seed, gradually enabling the plant to grow, bear flowers and fruits, and to produce seeds for future plants, so the magic power inherent in a high Ideal draws forth the dormant powers in a person's inner consciousness and gradually enables him to transcend his personal self and to show forth his inherent divinity.
But there is also the third aspect of an Ideal's power: the power generated by the effort of the individual to come nearer to his Ideal. This is a significant factor in the spiritual life and when correctly understood indicates the need to strive incessantly; for it is the striving that counts the most. Gandhiji says:
The goal ever recedes from us. The greater the progress, the greater the recognition of our unworthiness. Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.
Let us then choose the highest ideal we are able to conceive and to appreciate. Our hidden aspiration will exert its influence. Only a part of our ideal is made manifest. The rest remains unseen and yet it too has its own power. Albert Schweitzer, discussing what he designates as mankind's will towards the ideal, affirms his conviction that this will is greater than we can see and that the unseen part produces effects that exceed in value the effects of the visible action. He concludes: "Judging by what I have learnt of men and women, I am convinced that there is far more in them the idealist will-power than ever comes to the surface of the world."
The major part, locked in their hearts, has yet to be released.
May we then, sustained by our faith in humanity, of which we are a part, keep on in our efforts undismayed by aught! "Have patience, Candidate, as one who fears no failure, courts no success," enjoins The Voice of the Silence, and this is possible if we keep our gaze upon the Ideal we have accepted.
There may also be another sort of wealth than mere gold, another sort of power than position in politics or society. The powerful, wide, all-embracing, rapidly-acting brain stored with knowledge is a vast possession which one man may enjoy. He can use it properly or improperly.