Nobody can deny that the present is a serious time for the West. The political, social and philosophic values on which the society of yesterday was based have been questioned, one after the other. Some of them have been abolished. Nothing has been spared. The best and the worst meet, strike against one another and recoil. Sometimes they dwell together.
Monsters come to birth, monsters scarce capable of living. Ideological social forms transpire, sanguinary struggles take place in this new Middle Age, the Renaissance of which has not yet come in sight. The domain of the spirit has not been spared, and it is in spirit, perhaps, that men suffer most.
One can accustom oneself to ill-made laws, to social insecurity, even to financial instability. One can never accustom oneself to spiritual despair. What the social planners and reformers have forgotten to do is to give a deep reason for living to those to whom they bring material progress. What do the cinema, television and speed matter, if the soul is dead ? The West has already too long looked like a field of battle, covered with the dying and the dead. The circumstances of my life have led me to take an interest in the East. The old saying : "Ex oriente lux" has impressed me ever more and more.
I went to Asia to acquire deep wisdom and peace, from the mouths of men who live there a life which cannot be imagined here. I shall be told : "You went a long way, whilst at your very door . . "Ah, there it is-I found nothing at all at my very door, and I am not the only one. My lectures and books on Asia have brought me numerous letters and moving interviews and I have become aware that there is a large public waiting for light and a reason for living amid the stupid life we live. I do not pretend to a monopoly of wisdom, and the less so since I am only a messenger. The ways that lead to the summit are many. I have come to be aware of one a marvellous one, and I. am showing it to my travelling companions. They will choose it if they wish so to do.
I tell them of my profound faith in the spiritual treasure which the East has retained and the West has lost. This Treasure is not occult or secret. Those words, those thoughts I leave to folk who clothe themselves in mystery in order to cloak their ignorance. All that is needed in order to discover the treasure is determination, an ardent desire for the true and the beautiful, and an enduring patience.
Nothing is known of Asia in the West except its political dissensions, which are but the consequences of the lessons we Westerns have given. The deep thought of the East is unknown to us. There are men there whose influence and spiritual authority affect millions. There are mystic forms which satisfy vast numbers of men, but which are almost unknown in the
West. We can no longer remain ignorant of this thought and this culture. I wish to show you the unknown face of Asia-not by means of recondite treatises, books by learned men, works which only specialists can read but by means of texts, commentaries and studies written for all, by means of a living word, a faithful reflection, a message, in brief, from the soul of Asia.
The face I will show you will be the face of its spirituality, the living source of that extraordinary mysticism which produces the yogis, sages, mahatmas and lamas, masters of the magic and occult sciences which hitherto have been unexplained in the West. Liberal eclecticism has guided me in my choice of these texts. I became acquainted with them for the most part during my travels in Asia, when wise men there commented on them for me. No doctrinal or dogmatic considerations have guided me. This is not to be a Jainist or Buddhist, Vedantist or Taoist series. It has not been authorized by anyone. One of the great things I learned in Asia was to reject authoritative spiritual formulae, which limit and often dry up the human heart. I will not, therefore, introduce them here. My object in presenting these texts to the public is to make people think, reflect. I should be happy if I could awaken attention, give an object to desires, call back a wanderer or satisfy a weary one. But the spiritual life of Asia, while it is poetry and song, is also an extremely subtle psychological technique.
This is the theme of certain texts, which the public does not know, and which will be translated for the first time into a European language for those members of it who are sufficiently interested to read. I would repeat that I claim no originality for these studies, in which I have but repeated what I have heard. I am but a messenger, who is trying to be not too unfaithful to the Asia whence he comes.
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