“Yes, And Hope” by George William Russell

Story type: Essay

They bring none to his or to her terminus or to be content and full, Whom they take they take into space to behold the birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings. To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the ceaseless rings and never be quiet again. –Whitman

Here is inspiration–the voice of the soul. And we, who professed to bring such wisdom, what have we to say? Have we uttered with equal confidence such hopes, or with such daring and amplitude of illustration? Let us confess we have not. There are one or two exceptions which will occur to everyone. Now, as we adventure afresh, let us see what it is has brought despondency and failure in our work upon us in the past. I think it is because we have been saying things we have never realized; we have been repeating without imagination the words of those few leaders. We have lowered their heroic tone because we thought we were speaking to a fallen people who could not respond to our highest. But it was not the way, it was not the way. It is not with the dust we have brotherhood, but with the ancient spirit it clouds over. To this spirit we must speak heart to heart as we know how. I would not willingly recognize aught in anyone but the divine. Often indeed the form or surface far removed from beauty makes us falter, and we speak to that form and so the soul is not stirred; it will not respond. But an equal temper arouses it. To whoever hails in it the lover, the hero, the magician, it will answer, but not to him who accosts it as Mr. So-and-So. Every word which really inspires is spoken as if the Golden Age had never passed. The great teachers ignore the personal identity and speak to the eternal pilgrim. Do we not treasure most their words which remind us of our divine origin? So we must in our turn speak. How often do we not long to break through the veils which divide us from some one, but custom, convention, or a fear of being misunderstood prevent us, and so the moment departs whose heat might have burned through every barrier. Out with it– out with it, the hidden heart, the love that is voiceless, the secret tender germ of an infinite forgiveness. That speaks to the heart. That pierces through many a vesture of the Soul. Our companion struggles in some labyrinth of passion. We help him, we think with ethics, with the moralities. Ah, very well they are; well to know and to keep, but wherefore? For their own sake? No, but that the King may arise in his beauty. We write that in letters, in books, but to the face of the fallen who brings back remembrance? Who calls him by his secret name? Let a man but feel for that is his battle, for that his cyclic labor, and a warrior who is invincible fights for him and he draws upon divine powers. Let us but get that way of looking at things which we call imaginative, and how everything alters. For our attitude to man and to nature, expressed or not, has something of the effect of ritual, of evocation. As our aspiration so is our inspiration. We believe in life universal, in a brotherhood which links the elements to man, and makes the glow-worm feel far off something of the rapture of the seraph hosts. Then we go out into the living world, and what influences pour through us! We are “at league with the stones of the field.” The winds of the world blow radiantly upon us as in the early time. We feel wrapt about with love, with an infinite tenderness that caresses us. Alone in our rooms as we ponder, what sudden abysses of light open within us! The Gods are so much nearer than we dreamed. We rise up intoxicated with the thought, and reel out seeking an equal companionship under the great night and the stars.

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Let us get near to realities. We read too much. We think of that which is “the goal, the Comforter, the Lord, the Witness, the resting- place, the asylum and the Friend.” Is it by any of these dear and familiar names? Alas, our souls are becoming mere bundles of theories. We follow the trail of the Monad, but often it is only in the pages of The Secret Doctrine. And we talk much of Atma, Buddhi, and Manas. Could we not speak of them in our own tongue and the language of today will be as sacred as any of the past. No wonder that the Manasa do not incarnate. We cannot say we do pay reverence to these awful powers. We repulse the living truth by our doubts and reasonings. We would compel the Gods to fall in with our philosophy rather than trust in the heavenly guidance. We make diagrams of them. Ah, to think of it, those dread deities, the divine Fires, to be so enslaved! We have not comprehended the meaning of the voice which cried, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” or this, “Lift up your heads O y gates. Be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.” Nothing that we read is useful unless it calls up living things in the soul. To read a mystic book truly is to invoke the powers. If they do not rise up plumed and radiant, the apparitions of spiritual things, then is our labor barren. We only encumber the mind with useless symbols. They knew better ways long ago. “Master of the Green-waving Planisphere, ….. Lord of the Azure Expanse, …. it is thus we invoke,” cried the magicians of old.

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And us, let us invoke them with joy, let us call upon them with love, the Light we hail, or the Divine Darkness we worship with silent breath, hymning it in our hearts with quietude and more enraptured awe. That silence cries aloud to the Gods. Then they will approach us. Then we may learn that speech of many colors, for they will not speak in our mortal tongue; they will not answer to the names of men. Their names are rainbow glories. Yet these are mysteries and they cannot be reasoned out or argued over. We cannot speak truly of them from report, or description, or from what another has written. A relation to the thing in itself alone is our warrant, and this means we must set aside our intellectual self-sufficiency and await guidance. It will surely come to those who wait in trust, a glow, a heat in the heart announcing the awakening of the Fire. And, as it blows with its mystic breath into the brain, there is a hurtling of visions, a brilliance of lights, a sound as of great waters vibrant and musical in their flowing, and murmurs from a single yet multitudinous being. In such a mood, when the far becomes near, the strange familiar, and the infinite possible, he wrote from whose words we get the inspiration:

“To launch off with absolute faith, to sweep through the ceaseless rings and never be quiet again.”

Such a faith and such an unrest be ours: faith which is mistrust of the visible; unrest which is full of a hidden surety and radiance. We, when we fall into pleasant places, rest and dream our strength away. Before every enterprise and adventure of the soul we calculate in fear our power to do. But remember, “Oh, disciple, in thy work for thy brother thou has many allies; in the winds, in the air, in all the voices of the silent shore.” These are the far-wandered powers of our own nature and they turn again home at our need. We came out of the Great Mother-Life for the purposes of soul. Are her darlings forgotten where they darkly wander and strive? Never. Are not the lives of all her heroes proof? Though they seem to stand alone the eternal Mother keeps watch on them, and voices far away and unknown to them before arise in passionate defence, and hearts beat warm to help them. Aye, if we could look within we would see vast nature stirred on their behalf, and institutions shaken, until the truth they fight for triumphs, and they pass, and a wake of glory ever widening behind them trails down the ocean of the years.

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Thus the warrior within us works, or, if we choose to phrase it so, it is the action of the spiritual will. Shall we not, then, trust in it and face the unknown defiant and fearless of its dangers. Though we seem to go alone to the high, the lonely, the pure, we need not despair. Let no one bring to this task the mood of the martyr or of one who thinks he sacrifices something. Yet let all who will come. Let them enter the path, “Yes, and hope,” facing all things in life and death with a mood at once gay and reverent, as beseems those who are immortal–who are children today, but whose hands tomorrow may grasp the sceptre, sitting down with the Gods as equal and companions.

–August 1895

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