’TIS A saying, “That death discharges us of all our obligations.” I know some who have taken it in another sense. Henry VII., King of England, articled with Don Philip, son to Maximilian the emperor, or (to place him more honorably) father to the Emperor Charles V., that the said Philip should deliver up the Duke of Suffolk of the White Rose, his enemy, who was fled into the Low Countries, into his hands; which Philip accordingly did, but upon condition, nevertheless, that Henry should attempt nothing against the life of the said Duke; but coming to die, the king in his last will commanded his son to put him to death immediately after his decease. And lately, in the tragedy that the Duke of Alva presented to us in the persons of the Counts Horn and Egmont at Brussels, there were very remarkable passages, and one amongst the rest, that Count Egmont (upon the security of whose word and faith Count Horn had come and surrendered himself to the Duke of Alva) earnestly entreated that he might first mount the scaffold, to the end that death might disengage him from the obligation he had passed to the other. In which case, methinks, death did not acquit the former of his promise, and that the second was discharged from it without dying. We cannot be bound beyond what we are able to perform, by reason that effect and performance are not at all in our power, and that, indeed, we are masters of nothing but the will, in which, by necessity, all the rules and whole duty of mankind are founded and established: therefore Count Egmont, conceiving his soul and will indebted to his promise, although he had not the power to make it good, had doubtless been absolved of his duty, even though he had outlived the other; but the King of England wilfully and premeditately breaking his faith, was no more to be excused for deferring the execution of his infidelity till after his death than the Mason in Herodotus, who having inviolably, during the time of his life, kept the secret of the treasure of the King of Egypt, his master, at his death discovered it to his children.
Thirdly, the darkness is often a glamour thrown over the aspirant by the destructive forces that play in the world. To the process of evolution destruction is as necessary as construction, disintegration as integration. That which apparently delays really strengthens, as death is but an aspect of birth. The occultist knows that every force in nature represents the working of an invisible Intelligence, and that this is as true of the destructive as of the constructive forces. And he knows that the destructive Intelligences - the Dark Powers, as they are often called - set themselves to beguile, entrap, and bewilder the aspirant the moment he has made sufficient progress beyond ordinary humanity to draw their attention, and render himself worthy of attack. Endeavouring to delay the higher evolution and to prolong the sovereignty of matter, they regard as their natural enemy anyone who steps out of the normal path and seeks to lead the spiritual life. These are the “powers of nature”, so often mentioned in mystic books, who strive to hold back the aspiring soul. Their most favourite device of all, perhaps, is to cause discouragement and, if possible, to drive to despair, by enveloping the soul in darkness, and by making him feel forsaken and alone. Theirs the touch which gives the peculiar poignancy to the isolation; the thoughts that whisper of despair are but the echoes of their mockery. As progress is made on the Path, all the powers of nature must gradually be faced and conquered, and the facing and the conquering must be done alone. Alone? ah! not alone in reality; what shall separate us from the One Life which is our very Self, or from the love of the Masters who watch every step of the combatant? but alone so far as the intellect is concerned, which feels the “I” as standing unaided and forlorn.
FREE Socrates and the Immortality of the Soul Essay
And, in this sense, this good advice of Solon may reasonably be taken; but he, being a philosopher (with which sort of men the favors and disgraces of Fortune stand for nothing, either to the making a man happy or unhappy, and with whom grandeurs and powers are accidents of a quality almost indifferent) I am apt to think that he had some further aim, and that his meaning was, that the very felicity of life itself, which depends upon the tranquility and contentment of a well-descended spirit, and the resolution and assurance of a well-ordered soul, ought never to be attributed to any man till he has first been seen to play the last, and, doubtless, the hardest act of his part. There may be disguise and dissimulation in all the rest: where these fine philosophical discourses are only put on, and where accident, not touching us to the quick, give us leisure to maintain the same gravity of aspect; but, in this last scene of death, there is no more counterfeiting: we must speak out plain, and discover what there is of good and clean in the bottom of the pot:—