The Inner Voyage
The very idea of a quest involves a passage, a definite movement from one place to another. Here, of course, the passage is really from one state to another. It is a holy journey, so he who is engaged on it is truly a pilgrim. And as on many journeys, difficulties, fatigues, obstacles, delays, and allurements may be encountered on the way, yes! And here there will certainly be dangers, pitfalls, oppositions, and enmities too. His intuition and reason, his books and friends, his experience and earnestness will constitute themselves as his guide upon it. There is another special feature to be noted about it. It is a homeward journey. The Father is waiting for his child. The Father will receive, feed, and bless him.
All quests involve some travelling, the periodical shift from one point to another. The spiritual quest involves constant intellectual travelling, but only a single important shift–that from the ego’s standpoint to the Overself’s.
The quest is a deliberate attempt to shorten the passage from life in the underself to life in the Overself. Therefore it involves a constant discipline of actions, feelings, thoughts, and words.
All the experiences of life are in the end intended to induce us to seek wholeheartedly for the Overself. That is, to lead us to the very portal of the Quest.
Only when all of the mind–unconsciously evolved through the mineral, plant, animal, and lower human kingdoms–enters on the quest, does it consciously enter upon the development of its own consciousness.
Consciousness as ego has cut us off from the Source. But it need not do so forever. Through the quest, we can come closer and closer to the reintegration of a subdued ego with its Source, which will thenceforth act through us.
The right creative use of faith and will, exercise and effort can work wonders in leading us out of the enslavement, the blindness, and the ignorance of the lower nature back to the enlightenment, the freedom, and the wisdom of the higher self.
This quest is an irreversible journey. Once you have really started on it there is no turning back. You may believe that you have given it up in despair or turned away from it for a worldlier existence, but you are only fooling yourself. For one day either a deep repressed hunger will suddenly reassert itself or else a cataclysmic turn of events will drive you back to seek this last and enduring refuge of man.
… He who has once embarked on this quest, may be diverted from it for a while, but he can never be driven from it forever. His eventual return is certain…
One disciple who picked up the Quest again in this life described it as a feeling of reunion, of coming home.
At every important turn on his path the aspirant will find a choice awaiting him. He will find himself facing a set of circumstances which test his motive, strength, and attainment. These periodical tests can be neither evaded nor avoided, and often they are not recognized for what they are. Temptation may camouflage them under attractive colours. Nevertheless the student’s conduct in regard to them will decide whether he passes onward and upward, or falls back into pain and purification.
Let no one make the mistake of separating out the quest from everyday life. It is Life itself! Questers are not a special group, a labelled species, which one does or does not join, but are all humanity.
The making of money, the earning of a livelihood, and the attainment of professional or business success have their proper place in life and should be accorded it but–in comparison with the fulfilment of spiritual aspiration–ought to be regarded as having quite a secondary place.
Men will seek to feel the real life only after they have felt the uncertainties of human affection, the transiencies of human passion, and the insufficiencies of human activities.
Pursue the quest, practise its exercises, and undergo its disciplines with a patience that does not halt for an instant. If you do this, the time will come when the Overself can hold out no longer. It will then no longer dwell in secret but in your heart.
Such is the strange paradox of the quest that on the one hand he must foster determined self-reliance but on the other yield to a feeling of utter dependence on the higher powers.
Here on the quest, it is not only possible for him to meet the profoundest thoughts of the human mind but also its highest experiences.
The Overself is present with man, and life is nothing more, in the end, than a searching for this presence. He engages in this activity quite unconsciously in the belief that he is looking for happiness.
The aspirant may have already discovered for himself some of the inner benefits of the Quest. Once the Overself has been experienced as a felt, living presence in the heart, it loosens the grip of egoistic desires–together with their emotional changes of mood–on one’s consciousness and lifts it to a higher level, where he will soon become aware of a wonderful inner satisfaction which remains calm and unruffled despite outward circumstances to the contrary…
His quest can come to an end only when the unveiled Truth is seen, not in momentary glimpses, but for the rest of his lifetime without a break.
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