THE GIFT OF COURAGE
To men of "the Last Day," to men whose natures are attuned to the rhythm of closing cycles and incorporate the deep challenge of twilights between night and day, winter and spring, what could the spirit proffer as its most bounteous gift if not the power to overcome the disintegration of all things and the pressure of memories, regrets or resentments - the power to emerge into the New Day? What gift could be greater than the bestowal of courage!
It is easy to romanticize about the meaning of these last moments of any and all cycles, and to become enthralled by the Neptunian glamour so often identified with the symbolism of Pisces, the last winter sign of the zodiac. Psychism and passivity to the unconscious, boundless compassion and the rapturous openness of the mystic to the unknown beyond characterize some of the manifestations of the Piscean type of human being; but if one stresses these transcendent and elusive traits, which are secondary results rather than basic attributes, one tends to ignore the very factual and unavoidable confrontations experienced by conscious and thinking men whose temperaments make them eminently sensitive to the problems inherent in periods of transition and renewal.
All transitions coming under the symbol of Pisces are potential passages between death and rebirth, and not only escapes into illusory paradises or disappearances into realms of spiritual phosphorescence and dissolution. During these transitions, the one great task of intelligent and truly individualized persons is to overcome the pull of the past and bondage to memories of frustration and pain (substance of man's subconscious), or even to remembrances of ancient greatness and achievements. The one great task is to be "liberated" and to move on into the new. But liberation is a tragic process; in it, individual purpose is pitted against the inertia of collective tradition.
It is true that the Piscean type, just because it is normally burdened with recapitulations and balances of accounts, finds it easy or even natural to dwell upon the harvest of the ending cycle and to return again and again to the past. In some cases he is seeking understanding or atonement; in others, his backward glance betrays the inability to let go and to disentangle himself from the net of recollections of pleasure as well as of pain.
Seeds have come forth out of this past which hold within their pregnant core the mystery of tomorrows. It is for the sake of these seeds and the life-to-be that the individual must wield the sword of severance - the sword which Jesus brought to mankind. The sword is heavy; and the multitudinous ghosts swarming from the unconscious, or massed into the awesome appearance of the "Dweller on the Threshold," are cruel enemies. The Piscean temperament is a battlefield.
The Nazarene did not come to us with a bestowal of peace. He came to give us faith, a foundation for tomorrow, a path for victory over the unconscious - its rituals, its automatisms and its disintegrations. He came from the very heart of the spirit to give us courage; courage to destroy useless bodies and cultures, even while fulfilling the eonic Law that once brought forth these incorporations of spiritual vision; courage to assume the responsibility for the birth of the new civilization, even though it means the sacrifice of the seed into the germ of the new life.
Such a sacrifice is no death. It is the ransom of immortality. The useless vesture - the golden leaves of autumn and their glowing beauty - is thrown away to feed, as humus, the growth of the germinating seed. Truly, there is pungency in the late autumnal woods; great beauty and peace can be found in the unconscious of him who has nobly finished his cyclic task. But what the spirit brings to man is more than beauty and peace. It brings Christmas - and the sword that cuts away all obsolete, useless attachments and memories: the sword and the courage to wield it fearlessly.
The message of Pisces - and of Christianity - is a message of liberation. Liberation of the mind was the theme of Buddhism; liberation of the ego and the will, the message of Jesus, heir to the ancient lineage of the Zarathustras and the Hebraic seers. However, the spirit cannot offer to man liberation as a gift. Freedom must be won. The spiritual Teacher gives to his followers the sword; but the individual alone can use it and make himself free. He alone can transform his past into manure and seed, and use death to feed the renewal of life. He alone can assimilate the digested contents of his and the race's unconscious. He alone can win immortality, because he has had the courage to look for his immortal Self behind and through the menacing shadows of his earthliness.
The vision of the Self (and of the universal Being) demands of man courage - as those who gave India the Bhagavat Gita knew well! But to sit passively waiting for glimpses of the unknown, or emotionally to crave for escape into the blissful pseudo-nirvanas of transcendent states, does not require courage. Nevertheless the positive spiritual essence of the Piscean temperament is courage. Death must be destroyed before life can live. Without severance there can be no rebirth. Without the willingness to die to "Adam" there can be no incorporation of the "Christ" in the total person.
Indeed, the seed of the past must be retained, but only the seed, the quintessence, the spiritual harvest. All else must be cut away and surrendered. Spiritual living is a piercing through - through nature's phantasms and to the core of the Self, through "astral" disintegration and to the revelation of That which remains Itself, though cycles wax and wane as billowing waves of the ocean of mankind.
The great need of the Piscean temperament is the capability to endure. Endurance is the ability to remain one's self under the impact of the cyclic dissolution of all things; and no man (or nation) can endure through the disintegrative process attending the close of a cycle unless he has courage and faith. Courage toward the past - faith in the future: these two virtues are interdependent, as man and woman are interdependent. The man cuts away the veils woven by the energies of the unconscious; the woman envisions the archetypal Image of the future day.
Without vision there can be no faith. Faith is the dynamic impact of vision on the human will, unified and mobilized by the poignant expectation of the envisioned goal. "Vision" may not be fully conscious - the substance of a dream perhaps! The mind may not be able as yet lucidly to formulate the goal in words or patterns; nevertheless the inner happening - the impregnation of the soul by the power of the new purpose - must have occurred if faith drives on, oblivious to the perils and hardships of the way.
In his great book Flight to Arras, St. Exupery wrote: "We had lept over the whole defeat. We were above and beyond it, pilgrims stronger than the desert through which they toil because already in their hearts they have reached the holy city that is their destination." Indeed, the strength of the man of the "Last Day" consists in this, that in his heart, he has already reached his goal. Jesus was strong enough to chase the merchants from the Temple because, in his heart, he had already experienced the Father. The martyred Persian Prophet, the Bab, a century ago, had the strength to oppose the fanatic Moslem world and declare the era of Islam ended because, in his heart, he had already envisioned the "Glory of God" whose incorporation in the person of his successor, Baha'u'llah, he came to herald.
Every great individual born at the end of an era becomes an agent of the creative spirit in proportion as he wields the sword of severance from the ghosts of the past with the power of a faith born of a vision of the new cyclic goal. Every divine Messenger is a revolutionist, because he starts the new cycle revolving. He lives in the end of things, yet not of it. His "heart," his goal, his purpose is established in the future. He strides over cycles. He closes a door by opening the one ahead. He does this at one stroke of his spiritual Sword, because that Sword fecundates even while it destroys. Such is the eternal way of the spirit.
To live according to the rhythm of the spirit is indeed to live every moment as if, in it, the end of a cycle was being metamorphosed into a birth of futurity; it is to live in a perpetual act of germination. Alas! there are many spiritual "seeds" - minds and egos of men - that refuse to germinate, that seek at all costs to retain their external identity, to draw to themselves vast powers in a tense, self-centered effort to immobilize the past into an eternal enjoyment of their own being. There are powerful men on earth who cling to their mental structures, their prestige and their sensuous or intellectual possessions, who withstand, with a fanaticism born of fear, the great tides of on-moving life. These too display at times great courage; for it takes courage to stand against evolution and to oppose the will of God. But what a blind, what a desperate and tragic courage!
That courage which is a gift of the spirit can always be known in this that he who uses it is always willing to exchange the lesser for the greater, the pattern which excludes for that which includes more, yesterday for tomorrow. True courage is born of trust. It is a song of creative power and of unflinching belief in spring, even as the north wind's blasts bare all autumnal things for what may seem unavoidable death. But death is never inevitable. Death can contain birth in its agony, mother of new life. Death is merely change; and all changes are to men what men make them be - either through their faith or through their fears. And faith is inseparable from courage.
It takes courage to brave the darkness and the horror of battlefields, to refuse to be stopped by the dance of death, and through moans and wails to hear the small voice whose magic overtones rouse in the mind a vision of new goals. It takes as much courage not to forget the tone and the image once perceived, as the contest between confusing claims keeps raging through the days which follow the end of battles, and the feel of tomorrows seems lost beneath the anguish or the stubbornness of men incapable of faith, with petrified minds hammering against the fate they themselves have produced.
If there is courage, then the darkness recedes, and great wings beat across skies washed clean with dawning light. They are wings of spirit. They are harbingers of spring. Man rises. Man is creative. His whole being is a harp vibrating under the rhythmic impact of the spirit. All needs are fulfilled, Man is whole. And, in the harmony of plenary being, Peace is known. Not a peace beyond understanding; but that peace, born of understanding, in which all names and all powers, all gifts and all virtues find their place and their use.
Indeed, it is the Most Great Peace, whereof the Prophet spoke. In that Peace all conflicts are absorbed, all transitions are resolved into Christ-births; the divine potential in every man is raised to its highest pitch of glory and realization. To those who have no faith, this seems the "Millennium" - and they smile, saying the word. For others, it is Reality: Reality to be made, to be won, to be sung - to be lived.
An Astrological Triptych