THE WIDER OUTLOOK
A little thought will soon show us what a radical change is introduced into the life of the man who realises that his physical life is nothing but a day at school, and that his physical body is merely a temporary vesture assumed for the purpose of learning through it. He sees at once that this purpose of " learning the lesson" is the only one of any importance, and that the man who allows himself to be diverted from that purpose by any consideration is acting with inconceivable stupidity.
To him who knows the truth, the life of the ordinary person devoted exclusively to physical objects, to the pursuit of wealth and fame, appears the merest childÌs play, a senseless sacrifice of all that is really worth having for a few moments gratification of the lower parts of manÌs nature. The student " sets his affection on things above, and not on things of the earth" , not only because he sees this to be a right course of action, but because he realises very clearly the valuelessness of these things of earth. He always tries to take the higher point of view, for he sees that the lower is utterly unreliable, that the lower desires and feelings gather round him like a dense fog, and make it impossible for him to see anything clearly from that level.
Yet even when he is thoroughly convinced that the higher course is always the right one, and when he is fully determined to follow it, he will nevertheless sometimes encounter very strong temptations to take the lower course, and will be sensible of a great struggle within him. He will discover that there is " a law of the members warring against the law of the mind" , as St. Paul says, so that " those things that I would, I do not, and the thing which I would not, that I do" .
Now good religious people often make the most serious mistakes about this interior struggle which we have all felt to a greater or less extent. They usually accept one or two theories on the subject. Either they suppose that the lower promptings come from exterior tempting demons, or else they mourn over the terrible wickedness and blackness of their hearts, in that such fathomless evil still exists within them. Indeed, many of the best men and women go through a vast amount of totally unnecessary suffering on this account.
The first point to have clearly in mind if one wishes to understand this matter is that the lower desire is not in truth our desire at all. Nor is it the work of some demon trying to destroy our souls. It is true that there sometimes are evil entities which are attracted by the base thought in man, and intensify it by their action; but such entities are man-made, everyone of them, and impermanent. They are merely artificial forms called into existence by the thought of other evil men, and they have a period of what seems almost like life, proportioned to the strength of the thought that created them.
But the undesirable prompting within us usually comes from quite another source. It has been mentioned how man draws round him vestures of matter at different levels, in order that he may descend into incarnation. But this matter is not dead matter (indeed, occult science teaches us that there is no such thing as dead matter anywhere), but it is instinct with life; though it is life at a stage of evolution much earlier than our own, so much earlier that it is still moving on a downward course into lower matter, instead of rising again out of lower matter into higher.
Consequently its tendency is always to press downwards towards the grosser material and the coarser vibrations which mean progress for it, but retrogression for us; and so it happens that the interest of the true man sometimes comes into collision with that of the living matter in some of his vehicles.
That is a very rough outline of the explanation of the curious internal strife that we sometimes feel, a strife which has suggested to the poetic minds the idea of good and evil angels in conflict over the soul of man. A more detailed account will be found in The Astral Plane, p. 40. But in the meantime it is important that the man should realise that he is the higher force, always moving towards and battling for good, while this lower force is not he at all, but only an uncontrolled fragment of one of his lower vehicles. He must learn to control it, to dominate it absolutely, and to keep it in order; but he should not therefore, think of it as evil, but as an outpouring of the Divine power moving on its orderly course, though that course in this instance happens to be downwards into matter, instead of upwards and away from it, as ours is.