The Hidden Power, by Thomas Troward , at sacred-texts.com
PERHAPS you know a little poem of Browning's called "An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experiences of Karshish, the Arab Physician." The somewhat weird conception is that the Arab physician, travelling in Palestine soon after the date when the Gospel narrative closes, meets with Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, and in this letter to a medical friend describes the strange effect which his vision of the other life has produced upon the resuscitated man. The poem should be studied as a whole; but for the present a few lines selected here and there must do duty to indicate the character of the change which has passed upon Lazarus. After comparing him to a beggar who, having suddenly received boundless wealth, is unable to regulate its use to his requirements, Karshish continues:
The value in proportion of all things."
In fact he has become almost exclusively conscious of
and the result is a loss of mental balance entirely unfitting him for the affairs of ordinary life.
Now there can be no doubt that Browning had a far more serious intention in writing this poem than just to record a fantastic notion that flitted through his brain. If we read between the lines, it must be clear from the general tenor of his writings that, however he may have acquired it, Browning had a very deep acquaintance with the inner region of spiritual causes which give rise to all that we see of outward phenomenal manifestation. There are continual allusions in his works to the life behind the veil, and it is to this suggestion of some mystery underlying his words that we owe the many attempts to fathom his meaning expressed through Browning Societies and the like--attempts which fail or succeed according as they are made from "the without" or from "the within." No one was better qualified than the poet to realise the immense benefits of the inner knowledge, and for the same reason he is also qualified to warn us of the dangers on the way to its acquisition; for nowhere is it more true that
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,"
and it is one of the greatest of these dangers that he points out in this poem.
Under the figure of Lazarus he describes the man who has practically grasped the reality of the inner side of things, for whom the veil has been removed, and who knows that the external and visible takes its rise from the internal and spiritual. But the description is that of one whose eyes have been so dazzled by the light that he has lost the power of accommodating his vision to the world of sense. He now commits the same error from the side of "the within" that he formerly committed from the side of "the without," the error of supposing that there is no vital reality in the aspect of things on which his thoughts are not immediately centered. This is want of mental balance, whether it shows itself by refusing reality to the inward or the outward. To be so absorbed in speculative ideas as to be unable to give them practical application in daily life, is to allow our highest thoughts to evaporate in dreams.
There is a world of philosophy in the simple statement that there can be no inside without an outside, and no outside without an inside; and the great secret in life is in learning to see things in their wholeness, and to realise the inside and the outside simultaneously. Each of them without the other is a mere abstraction, having no real existence, which we contemplate separately only for the purpose of reviewing the logical
steps by which they are connected together as cause and effect. Nature does not separate them, for they are inseparable; and the law of nature is the law of life. It is related of Pythagoras that, after he had led his scholars to the dizziest heights of the inner knowledge, he never failed to impress upon them the converse lesson of tracing out the steps by which these inner principles translate themselves into the familiar conditions of the outward things by which we are surrounded. The process of analysis is merely an expedient for discovering what springs in the realm of causes we are to touch in order to produce certain effects in the realm of manifestation. But this is not sufficient. We must also learn to calculate how those particular effects, when produced, will stand related to the world of already existing effects among which we propose to launch them, how they will modify these and be modified by these in turn; and this calculation of effects is as necessary as the knowledge of causes.
We cannot impress upon ourselves too strongly that reality consists of both an inside and an outside, a generating principle and a generated condition, and that anything short of the reality of wholeness is illusion on one side or the other. Nothing could have been further from Browning's intention than to deter seekers after truth from studying the principles of Being, for without the knowledge of them truth must always remain wrapped in mystery; but the lesson he would impress on us is that of guarding vigilantly the mental
equilibrium which alone will enable us to develop those boundless powers whose infinite unfolding is the fulness of Life. And we must remember above all that the soul of life is Love, and that Love shows itself by service, and service proceeds from sympathy, which is the capacity for seeing things from the point of view of those whom we would help, while at the same time seeing them also in their true relations; and therefore, if we would realise that Love which is the inmost vitalising principle even of the most interior powers, it must be kept alive by maintaining our hold upon the exterior life as being equally real with the inward principles of which it is the manifestation.