The Inner Retreat

Who is there, whether he dwells in crowded tenement or spacious mansion, who does not sometimes feel the urgent need of seeking sanctuary in an inviolable spot, a retreat secure against dissension and argument, against the pressure of demands from others upon his time and energy, and also against the conflict in himself between his aspirations and his less worthy thoughts and desires, not necessarily evil in their nature but centred in "the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the perishable"?

Countless followers of the Enlightened One down the centuries have sought their refuge in the ideal exemplified and taught by Gautama Buddha and in the Order he established for his earnest followers, but in what Sangha or its equivalent in other faiths have there been perfect harmony and peace? What class of ordinary mortals like ourselves can claim with truth to have transcended woe and risen beyond the reach of pain while still in earthly bodies?

Theosophy proclaims the availability to everyone of a secure retreat, ever at hand and readily accessible whenever needed, if we but turn our consciousness within, silence the mental and emotional pressures and conflicts and listen in the sanctified solitude of our own heart for the promptings of the still, small voice in which the spiritual consciousness in us speaks to the human consciousness.

Mr. Judge has written of that place of peace within in letters to his friends and students and has done so in words that not only encourage but inspire, not only averring its existence but also showing how to reach it and to point the way to it to others.

"Calmness," he has written, "is the one thing necessary for the spirit to be heard." And again:

The great struggle must be to open up my outer self, that my higher being may shine through, for I know that in my heart the God sits patient, and that his pure rays are merely veiled from me by the many strivings and illusions that I bring on outwardly....

The work upon which all disciples are employed is that of rendering the body more porous, more fluidic, more responsive to all spiritual influences which arise in the inner centre, in the soul which is an undivided part of the great Soul of all, and less receptive of the outward material influences which are generated by the unthinking world and by those qualities which are in nature.

It is no light task to which he calls us:

We have, each one of us, to make ourselves a centre of light; a picture gallery from which shall be projected on the astral light such scenes, such influences, such thoughts, as may influence many for good, shall thus arouse a new current, and then finally result in drawing back the great and the good from other spheres from beyond the earth.

And yet it is, he tells us, to be achieved by means that strike us as so easy as to be applicable by the simplest earnest mind, the humblest heart:

By gentleness, detachment, strict attention to duty, and retiring now and then to the quiet place bring up good currents and keep back the evil ones....A steady mind and heart stands still and quiet until the muddy stream rolls clear.

The great Stoic philosopher, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, described the inner retreat in the Fourth Book of his Meditations, though he ascribed it to "nothing else than the good ordering of the mind." He wrote:

Men seek retreat for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou, too, art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquillity....

One other witness to the existence of "the quiet place" who testifies to the possibility of reaching it and gaining strength and courage from it when hard pressed is Miss I.A.R. Wylie, a novelist and writer of short stories. She writes of the "safe place" within herself which she had found in moments of difficulty and from which she had gained a real peace and a sense of integration. Friends with whom she had talked had also had the experience of finding their way to that inner refuge. Interestingly she wrote that they had not been sure how they had first reached it, but all had agreed that it was accessible only when they stood on the "firm ground of moral integrity." It had been closed to them whenever they wavered from an absolute code of decency and honour. Miss Wylie affirmed her own conviction that the "citadel" was within all men and women of good will, and that the individual quest of it was "the most urgent, significant quest of our lives." And, having found the way to it, she added,

we can march out of our invulnerable selves, all banners flying, to take risks, seize opportunity with strong hands, meet change with willing adaptability. We shall be often hurt. We cannot escape sorrow and pain and disappointment. But like death itself they will have lost their sting.

Miss Wylie did well to recognize that, winning our way to the "quiet place" and experiencing its calm and strength, we must go forth to do our duty in the world. The vision on the mountain top which that experience of the secure retreat within resembles, has to be brought down to the valley where our Karma has placed us; the strength and courage that it gave must be applied in the duties of every day.

Action is demanded of the sincere Theosophist, not mere intention and thought. Madame Blavatsky declared in The Key to Theosophy that

no Theosophist has a right to this name, unless he is thoroughly inbued with the correctness of Carlyle's truism: "The end of man is an action and not a thought, though it were the noblest" —and unless he sets and models his daily life upon this truth.

to return to the table of contents