These selected readings were put together for the purpose of allowing the individual to explore divine truths therein contained through timeless pieces of classic literature. Although they could be described as ‘spiritual’ by nature; they are not to be taken as gospel but are rather intended to be thought provoking – food for silent contemplation.
A brief analysis and selected excerpts have been provided as to help the individual determine whether or not they’re interested in reading these volumes in their entirety. They are listed in no particular order of hierarchy or preference.
Due to the early era in which these books and essays were written, some of them may appear to have a masculine tone to them. Needless to say that this was the writing style of the times and therefore the reader is asked to exercise understanding.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde
The Light of Asia by Sir Edward Arnold (1879), also known as The Great Renunciation
Oxford educated, Sir Edward Arnold (June 10, 1832 – March 24, 1904) worked as a journalist for the Daily Telegraph in England for over 40 years.
This epic volume is well accredited to have introduced Buddhism to the west in the late 1800s. Written in the form of a narrative poem with metered verse, it beautifully paints in words the life, struggles and enlightenment Prince Siddhartha Gautama.
Note: Due to the deep poetic nature and rhythm of this epic, it may be a challenging read for those who aren’t familiar with classical poetic literature.
Book the Eighth (pg. 188- 189)
I, Buddha, who wept with all my brothers’ tears, Whose heart was broken by a whole world’s woe, Laugh and am glad, for there is Liberty!
Ho! ye who suffer! know
Ye suffer from yourselves. None else compels, None other holds you that ye live and die, And whirl upon the wheel, and hug and kiss Its spokes of agony,
Its tire of tears, its nave of nothingness. Behold, I show you Truth! Lower than hell, Higher than Heaven, outside the utmost stars, Farther than Brahma doth dwell,
Before beginning, and without an end,
As space eternal and as surety sure,
Is fixed a Power divine which moves to good, Only its laws endure.
Essays ‘First Series’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)
Harvard educated, Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) is considered one of the main pioneers of the Transcendentalist movement in the mid-1800s. His essays offered a logical, un-orthodox understanding on theological topics by relating ancient teachings back to the simple and fundamental truths found in nature.
Written in essay form, this very well-educated man was one of the first to publish works on the misdirection and malpractices demonstrated in traditional religion. The reader is likely find his style of penmanship refreshingly unique and his form of expression stimulating for the intellect.
Chapter 2 on Self-Reliance
Emerson’s essay on self-reliance is arguably one of five of his most revered pieces of work. It places an emphasis on the importance of the individual to rely on their own judgement and make their own path in life irrespective of their neighbours’ inclinations. Its teachings are that of a moral nature and speak to us of the value in duty and principles.
His other renowned works include essays titled Nature, Compensation, Circles and the Over-Soul.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible-society, vote with a great party either for the government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers, — under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. … But do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument.
In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For, the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them, and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. … Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due.
If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish.
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it. We solicitously and apologetically caress and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned our disapprobation.
In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet. … He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things.
In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.
Chapter 3 on Compensation
Another one of Emerson’s most well known essays is on the compensation which exists in all things, material and immaterial. In this essay he humbly begins by stating:
“I shall attempt in this and the following chapter to record some facts that indicate the path of the law of Compensation; happy beyond my expectation if I shall truly draw the smallest arc of this circle.”
Justice is not postponed. A perfect equity adjusts its balance in all parts of life. … Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty.
Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.
You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. … The exclusive in fashionable life does not see that he excludes himself from enjoyment, in the attempt to appropriate it. The exclusionist in religion does not see that he shuts the door of heaven on himself, in striving to shut out others.
He is great who confers the most benefits. He is base, … to receive favors and render none. In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.
The thief steals from himself. The swindler swindles himself. For the real price of labor is knowledge and virtue, whereof wealth and credit are signs. These signs, like paper money, may be counterfeited or stolen, but that which they represent, namely, knowledge and virtue, cannot be counterfeited or stolen.
A great man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; … has got moderation and real skill. The wise man throws himself on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than it is theirs to find his weak point.
There is no tax on the good of virtue, … Material good has its tax, and if it came without desert or sweat, has no root in me, and the next wind will blow it away. But all the good of nature is the soul’s, and may be had if paid for in nature’s lawful coin, that is, by labor which the heart and the head allow.
The changes which break up at short intervals the prosperity of men are advertisements of a nature whose law is growth. …
We cannot part with our friends. We cannot let our angels go. We do not see that they only go out that archangels may come in. We are idolaters of the old.… We linger in the ruins of the old tent where once we had bread and shelter and organs, nor believe that the spirit can feed, cover, and nerve us again. We cannot again find aught so dear, so sweet, so graceful. But we sit and weep in vain.
And yet the compensations of calamity are made apparent to the understanding also, after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts. The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation
of new ones more friendly to the growth of character.
From Poverty to Power by James Allen – Part 2 – The Way of Peace (1901)
James Allen (November 28, 1864 – January 24, 1912) was the youngest of three children born into a working class family in Leicester, England. At the age of 15 his father moved to America to seek a better life, but shortly after his arrival in New York he was murdered forcing James to leave school and seek employment.
James Allen went through innumerable struggles throughout his life. Over the course of 11 years he wrote 19 books on topics to help assist others in overcoming life’s difficulties and attaining lasting happiness, fulfilment and divine truths.
He is only really known for his short volume (namely ‘As a Man Thinketh’) on the Law of Attraction. James didn’t want to release this work as he felt that the topic had already been exhausted; however, his wife Lily Allen convinced him otherwise and it became a major source of inspiration for the generations which followed.
The reader will look in vein for even an ounce of personality or opinion in any of his writings.
As per Allen’s request, the last of his books to be published (namely ‘The Divine Companion’) was done so post-humorously by his wife. The Divine Companion was the only book where Allen’s pen spoke with authority and revealed the extent of his wisdom. This is undoubtedly a true demonstration of perfect humility!
It seems as though it was Allen’s first book (From Poverty to Power) which he felt was the pinnacle of all of his works. Consisting of two parts each containing 7 chapters its wisdom is easily comprehensible and absolutely practical in application.
The Way of Peace is the second of the two part volume and wholly concerned with growth of the individual’s character and the pathway to permanent and abiding peace.
This little known book is an absolute must read for anyone interested in matters pertaining to the spirit. Its wisdom is absolutely logical in expression and free from opinions, superstitions and speculations. It provides instructions and logical explanations which are just as relevant today as they were over a century ago when they were first written.
He who would secure any worldly advantage must be willing to work vigorously for it, and he would be foolish indeed who, waiting with folded hands, expected it to come to him for the mere asking. Do not then vainly imagine that you can obtain the heavenly possessions without making an effort.
You cannot perceive the beauty of Truth while you are looking out through the eyes of self. If you are vain, you will color everything with your own vanities. If lustful, your heart and mind will be so clouded with the smoke and flames of passion, that everything will appear distorted through them. If proud and opinionative, you will see nothing in the whole universe except the magnitude and importance of your own opinions.
There is one quality which pre-eminently distinguishes the man of Truth from the man of self, and that is humility.
Divine Love is distinguished from human loves in this supremely important particular, it is free from partiality. Human loves cling to a particular object to the exclusion of all else, and when that object is removed, great and deep is the resultant suffering to the one who loves. Divine Love embraces the whole universe, and, without clinging to any part, yet contains within itself the whole, and he who comes to it by gradually purifying and broadening his human loves until all the selfish and impure elements are burnt out of them, ceases from suffering. It is because human loves are narrow and confined and mingled with selfishness that they cause suffering. No suffering can result from that Love which is so absolutely pure that it seeks nothing for itself.
Train your mind in strong, impartial, and gentle thought; train your heart in purity and compassion; train your tongue to silence and to true and stainless speech; so shall you enter the way of holiness and peace, and shall ultimately realize the immortal Love. So living, without seeking to convert, you will convince; without arguing, you will teach; not cherishing ambition, the wise will find you out; and without striving to gain men’s opinions, you will subdue their hearts. For Love is all-conquering, all-powerful; and the thoughts, and deeds, and words of Love can never perish.
When a man’s soul is clouded with selfishness in any or every form, he loses the power of spiritual discrimination, and confuses the temporal with the eternal, the perishable with the permanent, mortality with immortality, and error with Truth. It is thus that the world has come to be filled with theories and speculations having no foundation in human experience.
Where you find unbroken gentleness, enduring patience, sublime lowliness, graciousness of speech, self-control, self-forgetfulness, and deep and abounding sympathy, look there for the highest wisdom, seek the company of such a one, for he has realized the Divine, he lives with the Eternal, he has become one with the Infinite.
He who is patient, calm, gentle, and forgiving under all circumstances, manifests the Truth. Truth will never be proved by wordy arguments and learned treatises, for if men do not perceive the Truth in infinite patience, undying forgiveness, and all-embracing compassion, no words can ever prove it to them.
O thou vain and foolish man, who thinkest that thy many works can save thee; who, chained to all error, talkest loudly of thyself, thy work, and thy many sacrifices, and magnifiest thine own importance; know this, that though thy fame fill the whole earth, all thy work shall come to dust, and thou thyself be reckoned lower than the least in the Kingdom of Truth!