Entering the Short Path
The Quest contains two parts. In the first, or Long Path, the aspirant is made into a new person. In the second, or Short Path, he is made into an illumined one.
The Long Path meditates on the ego, the Short Path on the Overself. This is the basic difference between them.
If the immediate purpose of the Long Path is to train, discipline, and prepare the ego, the immediate purpose of the Short Path is to transcend it.
He must not only do so far as he can all that the Long Path demands from him but he must also step outside it altogether and do those totally different things that the Short Path demands.
The Long Path covers all the preparatory stages leading up to but not including the decisive attempts. It is concerned with the removal of obstructions to the coming of enlightenment, whereas these attempts, which belong to the Short Path, are concerned with the conclusive formulae of enlightenment.
… On the Long Path many students want experiences–mystical, occult, psychical ones. It is the ego wanting them and the satisfaction of progressing. The ego feels important. In the Short Path there is no desire for inner experiences of any kind. When you are already in the Real, there is no desire any more…
On the Long Path we search for truth, reality, the Overself. That is, we use the ego’s forces and faculties. On the Short one we keep still and let truth, reality, the Overself’s Grace search for us instead. The ego is then no longer in the picture.
The Long Path devotee is concerned with learning how to concentrate his thoughts in the practice of meditation… The Short Path Devotee is not. He is concerned with direct union with the object of all these efforts, that is, with the Overself…
The Long Path developed in him through yoga-meditation the capacity to find the inner Stillness. The Short Path added to it (1) the knowledge that the Stillness is himself, and (2) the practice of continuing remembrance to be the Stillness.
The Long Path is taught to beginners and others in the earlier and middle stages of the quest. This is because they are ready for the idea of self-improvement and not for the higher one of the unreality of the self. So the latter is taught on the Short Path, where attention is turned away from the little self and from the idea of perfecting it, to the essence, the real being.
Although the Long Path does not directly lead to Enlightenment, it reduces obstacles, prepares the seeker, and opens his way for entry to the Short Path, which in turn can subsequently lead to enlightenment.
The Long Path calls for a continued effort of the will, the Short one for a continued loving attention.
If the Long Path disciplines increase his anxieties and frustrations to an insupportable point, it is probably an indication that he needs a shift to the Short Path–with its effort to shift identity into the Overself and establish him there.
Most people who start the short path have usually had a glimpse of the Overself, because otherwise they find it too difficult to understand what the short path is about. The long path, through its studies and practices, is the period of preparation for the advanced quest. It is called the long path because there is much work to be done on it and much development of character and emotions to go through…
The Long Path man’s thoughts are too often with his personal self, too seldom with his Overself. The blessed turning point will be reached when he looks away from himself with persevering faith.
… The disciplining of the self can go on and on and on. There will be no end to it. For the ego will always be able to find ways to keep the aspirant busy in self-improvement, thus blinding him to the fact that the self is still there behind all his improvements. For why should the ego kill itself? Yet the enlightenment which is the goal he strives to reach can never be obtained unless the ego ceases to bar the way to it. At this discovery he will have no alternative to, and will be quite ready for, the Short Path.
… After some measure of this preparation the aspirants enter the short path to complete this work. This takes a comparatively much shorter time and, as it has the possibility of yielding the full self-enlightenment at any moment, it ends suddenly. What they are trying to do on the long path continues by itself once they have entered fully on the short path…
The Long Path gives many benefits and bestows many virtues but it does not give the vision of truth, the realization of the Overself, nor does it bestow Grace. For these things we must turn to the Short Path.
When Jesus counselled, Cast thy burden . . . he was phrasing a perfect invitation to travel the Short Path.
… The preliminary phases of his progress are over. Hitherto it was mostly his own efforts upon which he had to rely. Now, however, it is the Overself which will be the active agent in his development. All that is henceforth asked of him is that he remain passive, otherwise he may disturb the holy work by the interference of his blind ignorant self-will…
… To summarize the entire process, the Long Path leads to the Short Path, and the Short Path leads to the Grace of an unbroken egoless consciousness.
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