The Twofold Path
Wisdom counsels us to begin the Quest with the Long Path. When we have gone some distance on it, we may add the Short Path, changing the emphasis from one to the other by turns. This intermittent approach sets up a kind of reciprocal rhythm. The improvement of character opens the door of sensitivity a little wider to intuition, and the improved intuition helps to exalt character.
In theory the Long Path ought to precede the Short Path, but in actual practice such precedent endures for a limited time only, and then both paths are to be followed simultaneously.
On the Long Path he has used various forms of practice. Now at the portals of the Short Path, he may intermittently and temporarily discard them and then just as intermittently and temporarily practise them. In this manner he can unite the two paths.
While giving all attention to the Overself, or to its remembrance, or to its various aspects, or to the idea of it, he forgets himself. This makes it possible to transcend the ego. And this is why the Short Path must be travelled if the preparatory work of the other Path is to be completed.
It is true that the Long Path is only a preliminary one and that the Short Path is certainly a more advanced one. But it is also true that each is incomplete without the other. The best plan is to adopt as much of both paths as the aspirant can.
The advocates of the Long Path claim that the mind must be trained and the heart must be cleansed before enlightenment is possible. The advocates of the Short Path claim that it is sufficient to deny the ego and affirm the higher self. The philosopher studies the facts revealed by observation and research and concludes that the methods of both schools must be united if enlightenment is not only to be lastingly attained but also not to fall short of its perfect state.
… The fact is that the Long Path is incomplete without the Short one.
… There is not one fixed rule for everyone. One person is suited for a little of the Short Path and more or longer of the Long Path; with the other person it is vice versa. With most people the combination is the best way…
If the Long Path equips him with the necessary strength, purity, and concentration, the Short Path makes use of this equipment to unite his consciousness directly with the Overself.
There is this difference when the Long Path is entered alone and when it is entered with the accompaniment of the Short one, that in the second case there is added the light of guidance, the protection of peace, the acceleration of progress, and the harmony of equilibrium.
It is not a question of choice between the two paths. The beginner can hardly comprehend what the Short Path means, let alone practise it. So perforce he must take to the Long one. But the intermediate, weary of its toils and defeats, turns with relief to the other path, for which his studies and experiences have now prepared him.
Such a double practice of the Short and Long Paths will not only lead to a fuller and better balanced progress but also to a quicker one. For these two opposite activities will work upon him in a reciprocal way. His faults will be ground to powder between them, as if they were millstones.
A double work goes on: the man slowly withdraws from the things which hold him, which make him theirs, while his higher aspirations attract the higher self to slowly take over the place in his heart which they filled.
The danger in both cases is in limiting one’s efforts to the single path. It may invite disaster to give up trying to improve character just because one has taken to the Short Path. Yet it may invite frustration to limit one’s efforts to such improvement. The wise balance which philosophy suggests is not to stop with either the Short or the Long Path but to use both together.
They are not really opposed to each other, but are in fact complementary. If the Long Path is a steep uphill climb, the Short Path is its sunny side.
The devotional attitude will not decrease with the growth of the mystical one. It too will grow, side by side with the other. But it will cast out of itself more and more egoistic selfish interest or grasping until it becomes the pure love of the Overself for the latter’s sake alone.
In the well-formed and well-informed aspirant the activities of both paths will be subtly blended. This is part of what is meant when it is said that he is properly balanced. And out of this union will come the second birth, the new man who reflects at last the glorious consciousness of the Overself.
The twofold way is indispensable: on the one hand the way of self-effort, working to overcome the ego, and on the other the way of Grace, through constantly seeking to remember your true identity in the Overself.
He must finish what he has started. He must go on until the peace, the understanding, the strength, and the benevolence of these rare uplifted moods have become a continuous presence within him.
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