I should like to speak this afternoon on a subject concerning psychology: what we may acknowledge and what we may not acknowledge in life. What generally happens is that a person acknowledges what they must not acknowledge, and they do not acknowledge what they should acknowledge in life. As a rule, it is best never to acknowledge a fact that we do not wish to manifest. For instance, when a person begins to see and acknowledge that their friend is not as kind, is not as affectionate, is not as pleased as they ought to be as a friend, they at once give strength to something that has yet been but a shadow. A person who thinks, “Everyone in my family, in my surroundings, dislikes me, disapproves of me. I have a tiring effect upon them,” certainly gives life to that fact.
A friend came to me and said, “I do not know what kind of bad planet has its influence upon me. For the last three years everything I touch goes wrong; nothing that I touch brings success or pleasure.” I asked, “How long?” And she said, “For three years now.” I said, “I am very sorry, you have come too late. Yet it is not too late, but for three years you have given fuel to this fire.” The friend asked, “How did I give fuel to this fire?” I answered, “By your acknowledging it. If we acknowledge every little fact that has a bad effect upon our life, we give life from our own life to that fact, thus make it a living thing.
It is this way with many illnesses also. Very often people get into a habit of saying, “Oh, I am so tired!” For them it is not necessary that they should cut stones or cut wood or carry wood or carry stones. They will be tired before doing it. They need not wait for an action, for a thing to make them tired. No sooner do they think of tiredness than it is there. There are many cases where there is no need for being tired, and the person is tired by the fact of having acknowledged it. The same thing with sleeplessness. Once you acknowledge to yourself, “I cannot sleep,” that is enough to cause you to keep awake all night. There are many illnesses of this kind, especially the acknowledging of depression: “I am depressed, I am sad.” There may be no other reason for being depressed, for being sad but the acknowledgment, “I am sad.” The thought makes a person sad.
To a person who will acknowledge this life to be their friend, life will prove to be their friend; to a person who will acknowledge this life to be their enemy, life will prove in every way to be their enemy. There are many who take notice of those who are working against them, and by taking notice of it they make them do so more, because they make an impression upon them. You might say, “But does animosity not exist in persons without our thinking about it?” Yes, it may exist; but by taking notice of it, by acknowledging it, you give life to it. If you do not acknowledge it, it will die in time. For animosity is a fire, but not a perpetual fire. It is the acknowledging of it that gives the fire the fuel. If you do not acknowledge it, the fire will be extinguished.
Many might say that it is hypocrisy not to acknowledge a fact, but that hypocrisy is better than the truth. In fact, that is not to be called hypocrisy when you know its meaning, its worth, when you understand it. That doctor is not a hypocrite who says to their patient, even seeing that the patient has a high fever, “It is all right, it is all right; it is nothing.” By saying that it exists, that there is a high fever, they will certainly increase the fever of the patient. Many doctors do so. Everything a physician or a religious person does to make a person who is on their deathbed think of death, only encourages them towards death. They are pushing their patient towards death. You could prove a greater friend to your friend, the person who is on their deathbed, by not acknowledging the trouble, the difficulty, the coming death. I have heard of many cases where, as soon as the doctor thinks that there is no hope, the whole family begins to talk about it to the patient, and their departure is hastened by six months.
What must we acknowledge? That which we always escape from acknowledging, our faults. By acknowledging our faults, we shall kill them. When we acknowledge them as our enemies, we shall destroy them. However, that is the one thing that we want to hide, and that is the one thing that we want to keep hidden even from our own sight. To look in the face of your own fault is the best thing to do: to analyse it, to weigh it, to measure it, to understand it better. By this act either you destroy it or you understand it or you turn the same fault into a merit. Very often people think it is wise to tell a person, “No, you are not my friend. No, you have not been very attentive to me, very kind to me.” When a person tells another these things, even if the faults were not existing there, they inspire that person with them.
Besides, all misfortunes, all dangers that threaten us, that frighten us, very often are not so great as we think. They can be avoided if we do not acknowledge them. For how a person feels about the danger depends upon the particular pitch to which the heart is tuned. For instance, in the case of ten persons standing before the same danger, if we could weigh their fear, we would find that the degree of fear that they have is very different in each of them. There is an interesting story of the Prophet Muhammed. A disciple was with him. Once they were exiled and the enemies were pursuing them in the desert, they were standing behind a rock, and the running of many horses was heard. “O, Prophet,” said the disciple, “they are pursuing us. They are many, they are many; it is an army behind us.” “Oh, they are going somewhere else,” said the Prophet. “They are coming here, I hear it!” said the disciple. “They will go in some other direction,” said the Prophet. “But what shall we do if they come here? How many they are, and we are only two!” said the disciple. “Are we two?” said the Prophet. “No, three; you, I, and God.”
Everyone does not look at danger from the same point of view. To one person the smallest thing is too great, for another the greatest thing is nothing. It is as you view it. Once you see the danger as great, you will make it greater. By not acknowledging the greatness of the danger, you will diminish its greatness. Of course, when conditions have gone so far that it is most difficult to dominate the trouble, then we have to control it. But at the same time by making a great excitement over it, we shall not make the trouble any less. It will be greater.
There is a story that is amusing, but at the same time explains this. There was a prime minister of Hyderabad not long ago. He was one of the ancient royalties who carried a certain kind of ideal of manner and culture. Once, when he was sitting at the dinner table, entertaining some foreign friends, it happened that a part of his palace was set on fire. As it was the custom of the palace not to come hurriedly to tell news, the aide-de-camp had to come very gently, between the courses, and he whispered in his ears what was happening. To the great surprise of the aide-de-camp, the Prime Minister only said, “Yes,” and went on with the other course that had come. Then, as the next course was coming he begged their pardon and said, “I will come in a moment.” Gently he went, as if nothing had happened, giving orders about what to do to extinguish the fire, and then he came back gently. A great part of the palace had already burned, but when the guests left after dinner, they had not known it. The next day, in the paper, they read that a great part of the palace had been burned. They were very surprised to see such a thing, how the prime minister had such patience, such self-control, such a mastery over himself. It does not mean that he did not feel the loss; he perhaps felt it more than anyone could have felt it. He did not show it. It was not his manner to jump about, it was not his manner to run and rush and jump, it was not his manner to make a fuss for nothing. Suppose if he had done as everyone does, what would he have done? He would have excited the others also, and made things worse. It is better that the palace was on fire than that the spirit was on fire.
There is another thing that we must acknowledge. We must acknowledge, in our friend, in our companion, in those we wish to help, the good part in their character. By acknowledging it, by noticing it you will fortify it, it will become greater. Do not think that it is against humility even to acknowledge your own merits; because, if you are unconscious of your merits, the plant is suffering there without water. It is not by acknowledging your merit, your virtue, that you become proud or conceited. If you keep yourself from pride or conceit, you can stay free of it. By recognising it, you certainly water the plant that is worth rearing.
You can carry the same method of acknowledging or not from psychology to esotericism. In esotericism you have a problem before you. There is a Truth that you have to discover that is covered by a fact. If you are accustomed to deny a fact in order to discover a Truth, then you are ready in esoteric work to deny that fact that hides the Truth and discover thereby that Truth, which is worth discovering. In explaining the meaning of the word “fact,” I should say that the fact is a shadow, that for the moment represents something that has a certain meaning to it. We can witness it and at the same time it will not continue its reality forever. For instance, a person says, “Sandow, in fact, is a strong man.” Yes, it is a fact that he is a strong man. It is not a truth, because he will not be eternally strong. Therefore, the knowledge of our own existence and the knowledge of the existence of others, all this knowledge that we have is a changeable knowledge. Since it is changeable it is a fact. Truth is behind it. But when we discover within our own self and when we discover in others something that is everlasting and will never change, that is the Truth. The person who understands this will understand the meaning of all the concentrations and meditations that Sufis study and practise. It is all one thing for one purpose; it is all in order to deny fact in order to establish Truth.
January 10, 1925
CW 1925 Vol. II, pp. 29-34.