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Early Writings

THE FLAME

1928

SOME YEARS AGO I was talking with a great friend of mine, one who is not altogether of my way of thinking, though he agrees with me in many things -but he is not quite so uncompromising as I am. He said to me that I was as sweet as the meandering waters without the necessary fire for the destruction of useless things, and the creation of essential things. And he ended up by saying: If you would do anything in life, you must have the white flame to carry through your purpose. Because you will be opposed in your ideas, the sweet meandering waters will be dammed and turned to other purposes of irrigation rather than give life to the parched lands. I have been thinking considerably about what he said during the last two years, and wondering if the time has come for the white flame to burn. I hold that the white flame of which my friend spoke is necessary, but it is also necessary to have patience.

This spring in Ojai I was watching a sparrow, building her nest just outside my sleeping-porch. It was the most precarious nest, because it was built in the sunblind. Any person who came along and unconsciously pulled up that awning would necessarily have destroyed the nest. I watched it day after day, and saw the nest coming into being, the immense efforts of the mother bird, its gigantic struggles to create the lovely nest, in which it laid three eggs successively, night after night. In the building of that nest in that precarious position and in the bringing forth of the young birds in spite of the carelessness of human beings and the cruelty of other animals, that little sparrow was contending against the whole world in its creation. It had the white flame, necessary to contend, struggle and assert itself. And that sparrow gave me the necessary understanding that the white flame comes, not by a sudden onrush but by patience, by continual assertion of the essential truth, by continually contending against the small things of life, against narrowness of belief and small understanding. It would have been very easy for me to have hurled myself against the wall of orthodoxy and tradition and sets of beliefs some years ago, but it would have been unwise, because the wall was much too strong; there were very few people who really understood, and therefore would have helped to create a breach in that wall. But now, since I have been here, that white flame has grown strong within me, and I will not ever again compromise with anything, I will never try to reconcile the things which are not of the truth, I, personally, will never put aside the eternal for the sake of the passing.

I have been wondering how many of you have the flame, how many of you are like the steel, forged by your own hands, by your own understanding and by your own contention against life. I am now certain for myself, I am certain of that of which I speak. Even though everyone disagrees with me, though everyone contends against me, though everyone misunderstands that which I say. The more there is misunderstanding, the more there is divergence of opinion, the more certain I am. I would that you could be likewise, not because of what I say, but because you have perceived for yourself. Then that knowledge and wisdom shall give stability to your understanding, so that nothing can destroy it, so that you will constantly have the white flame that shall burn away the dross, the useless things of life, and destroy your innumerable crutches and the divisions which hold people apart. The sweet meandering waters are very pleasant to behold and delightful to sail upon, but if you would go out to sea where there are many waves, storms and tempests, you will have to leave the sweet meandering waters behind, you will have to put them aside and venture forth to discover your own strength, to contend with your own wisdom and knowledge against those things which are unessential and unimportant. For that one needs to have courage, not the stupid courage born out of lack of thought, but courage born out of understanding, courage born out of intelligence. As perhaps some of you agree with me, and see and feel and know and understand with me: if you will not compromise with the truth, then the realization of happiness and the bringing about of that happiness in the world will become a certainty. But if you who have perceived, who have known, who have considered and understood with me, have not the white flame but are merely meandering as the sweet waters, you will not create, you will not stand against the old beliefs and traditions. The time for sweet meandering is over, not for you perhaps, but for me. Not for those who have not understood, but for those who have seen, who have known, who have understood; not for the people who are all the time concerned with reconciliation and compromise, but for those who have invited doubt and have conquered doubt, and who have set aside reconciliation.

You cannot reconcile with truth -truth cannot be twisted, warped to your purpose. You will never bend truth to your particular understanding, but rather you will have to unbend your understanding to the truth; make straight those things which are crooked in order to understand the truth. In order to straighten out those things which have been made crooked, you need a flame. If you would bend the steel to a particular shape, you heat it; so if you would unbend and make straight those things in yourself, which are crooked, you must be heated by the white-hot flame of truth. You must be like the sea, against which nothing shall stand, whose waters are in continual motion, never still, always destroying those barriers that men create to hold them back. If a person is dying, and you would revive him and bring him back to life, your sweet fear of hurting him does not hold you back from inviting the surgeon who shall heal. It is no true affection that is afraid to hurt; no love that will not contend against false sentiment, vain hopes and fleeting pleasures. If you who have seen will stand for truth without compromise, we shall go forward together; if not, you will be on the sweet meandering waters, sailing smoothly along, with your particular pleasures and your delightful, smooth reconciliation, and Truth and I will be far away.

What is the use of you all agreeing with me, sympathising with me, smiling with delight at my sayings, if there is not the true alteration of your mind and heart, if there is no straightening of those things that are crooked? I tell you that Truth is much too serious to play with; it is much too dangerous to have one part of your heart in the temple of truth and another part in the temple of unrealities and half-truths. For that way is the way of sorrow, is the way of contention, is the way of vain beliefs which shall decay. If you have not that white flame, which comes from understanding, which is born out of patience, you will not enter into that kingdom where Truth abides. As a sweet flower that decays and perishes, so shall be he who merely holds to sweet enjoyments, but if you would be as the tree that withstands every storm and dances in every breeze, you must delight in truth and walk in the light of truth.

Early Writings

THE FLAME
1928

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