PAIN–Protector, Prodder, Life Producer

Printed in The Beacon July 1976 and September 2002

By M. E. Haselhurst

Blessed are the obstacles, by them we grow.
(AUM, para. 284)

It is justly observed that certain pains are called sacred. Through them the spirit ascends, and there is no other way. We do not know an instance when consciousness was able to ascend without bodily pains.
(Agni Yoga, para. 235)

THE USES OF PAIN are many, and they lead the human soul out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberation, out of agony into peace" (Discipleship in the New Age, Vol.1, p. 677). So said the Tibetan teacher to a group of disciples, lighting up yet again the imperative necessity of lifting that constantly emphasised point of conscious awareness beyond the three worlds of purely human evolution. Brooding on his words, it gradually becomes apparent that pain does not inhere in the actual experience so much as in the attitude of the sufferer to the experience.

There is little doubt but that pain, as it demonstrates in the human kingdom, is closely associated with mind. In the animal kingdom, pain is largely physical, with possibly some emotional colouration, but man suffers physically, emotionally and mentally, the mental suffering being associated with memory, anticipation and imagination. These factors are present in many pain-producing situations: one remembers past pain and suffers proportionately when faced with circumstances or situations which resemble those already experienced. Or one knows, with knowledge based upon reliable information, that certain factors produce pain, and by means of imagination, commences to suffer long before the actual factors demonstrate.

Memory and imagination are elements also in the quite terrifying pain of remorse, which undoubtedly depends more on the spiritual quality of the individual than on the action for which remorse is felt. A man with a strong sense of justice, for instance, suffers intensely from awareness of even a slight injustice meted out to another being, whilst someone of less developed sensitivity is left almost untouched.

The power of pain is enormously aggravated by the thoughtforms built around it, which concretise and make more enduring the pain-producing situation and conditions. Bearing in mind the occult maxim "energy follows thought", these thoughtforms strengthen as attention is directed to the pain.

The Consciousness centred in the Head

This mental element in the pain situation was strongly emphasised to the writer some years ago, by a man who suffered severely from osteo-arthritis in his right hip; a physical disability so acute that he did most of his work from a couch. He said that by persistent endeavour he had acquired the capacity to keep consciousness centred in the head. Thus physical sensations did not intrude on his thoughts and he was, in consequence, able in large measure to ignore the pain-producing sensations. But he added that this applied mainly to physical pain of long standing; sudden or unexpected pain jolted attention down to the physical plane and very definite effort had then to be made to again centre consciousness above the pain situation.

Such definite effort can be made along lines that come most easily to the individual concerned. The architect would probably find his stepping stones in the effort to translate visions of functional beauty into form. The artist might lose the suffering self as he wrestled with problems of light and colour. The poet or musician could well rise above pain on tremendous waves of rhythm and of sound. The mystic and the occultist no matter what direct steps were taken, might well culminate his effort by meditating on some spiritual law or principle—perhaps on truth, known and lived by and consistently practised. A useful seed in this latter type of endeavour is "Let Reality govern my every thought and Truth be the master of my life".

It is essential not to meditate on the pain in any way, even by denying it, because that involves giving attention to the pain. Although this may sound remote from actual situations, it is not so at all. Almost everyone knows of lovely folk who suffer pain in some degree, but ignore it in their daily lives, demonstrating soul quality even though many of them pour scorn on that word "soul". And it is known by direct experience that it is quite possible (not easy, but possible) to take this Brother Ass, as St. Francis of Assissi called the physical body, by the scruff of the neck and tell it to stop moaning and get on with something worth doing. It is, however, more creative to regard Brother Ass as an active cooperator in worth-while effort. One then makes expectant demands on its automatic reactions and is seldom disappointed.

Pain is a Protective Factor

A useful point to remember is that pain is a protective factor. It warns of danger. It makes one aware of the need to remove a pain-producing potential, such as flame, or scalding water. If it were not for pain, the commonplace dangers of daily life could do irreparable harm to the physical body before the owner was aware of what was happening. And it is this beneficent work of pain that makes one aware of disease in the organism, and so leads to a cure being effected before it is too late.

Pain appears to be basically the result of lack of harmony in some area of man’s total make-up. It could be disharmony between

  1. the soul and its vehicles (or between the form and the indwelling Life),
  2. different elements of the personality equipment, e.g. mind in conflict with emotions,
  3. the components of the physical body—maladjustment in organs or cells: blockages in the flow of the life-giving blood.

So it appears that at least part of the problem of pain is concerned with recognition of the cause, and with an understanding of right relationship. These are factors with which disciples are intimately acquainted. They arise again and again as effort is made to demonstrate spiritual quality in the world of form. Meditation in some of its aspects and most certainly the evening review, which is part of an accepted spiritual discipline, demand this awareness of the whys and the wheres of causative action. Thus are men brought, unwittingly at times, to the point where revelation becomes possible, and the inter-relatedness of all facets of the Wisdom teaching is made clear.

A further challenging point in considering pain in relation to spiritual living is that pain enters into all shattering of form, and is part of that changing vibratory capacity which is a concomitant of spiritual unfoldment. As evolution proceeds, the rate of this change accelerates, with consequent intensification of the experience of pain. Looking specifically at the continuing life of mankind, the vibratory quality of the instruments through which the soul (or real man) works, alters from incarnation to incarnation as a consequence of the experiences undergone and the attitudes that are developed in relation to such experience. It is common experience that even one lifetime is strewn with the debris of shattered forms: the forms of human loves, of plans that have not eventuated, of ideals that have somehow failed to find expression. This, according to the Wisdom teaching, is the way the human soul mounts the stairs of awareness, moving from a total identification with form, and the consequent bondage of physical pain, through level after level of expanding realisation, always with this pain experience, in continually changing guise, driving him upward and onward.


Dr. Annie Besant, in one of her lectures, pointed out that man steals: he then suffers the penalty of stealing, repeating the painful process until he has wrought into his inmost being an awareness that stealing is to be avoided; it just is not worth while. From then on, honesty, integrity, are factors of that man’s make-up and show forth in his outer life. So is conscience developed. Conscience is that uncomfortable companion who is so frequently pushed into a dark cupboard and forgotten because he will insist on pointing out that one should do something it is especially desired not to do, or should not do something which the outer self is clamorously insistent on undertaking.

Here emerges another extremely subtle aspect of pain. Because men are becoming increasingly aware of kinship, one with the other, they tend to react with growing acuteness to the distress and difficulty of the human situation. And they cry, as the pilgrim of old cried to the ferryman:

"Christopher, Christopher, show us the way.
To carry the world and its burdens today.
Through the rain and the mist and the blinding spray..."

which is an emotional reaction to pain, and not one of the treads of the ladder by which men rise above it. So suffering—pain—emerges in yet another aspect, until it is learnt that not too much may be lifted from the shoulders of other people. Under no circumstances must the divine right to stand alone, to go forward in the strength of his own soul, be taken from a human being. Stand beside those others, yes. Strengthen them in every possible way, yes. But recognise their right to tread the way in their own strength, and the light of such wisdom as they have achieved. Here is pain in another dimension, as one learns to face the grief of the world and not be broken by it.

Many people are today aware of a kind of wind of change which is blowing through spiritual groups around the world, a wind which tends to blow away some of the mists of glamour and illusion which have for long shut men off from realisation of their divine potential. One outcome of this is a sort of expectancy concerning the spiritual evolution of humanity. In all sorts of places, among many kinds of people, there is talk of the externalisation of the Hierarchy and the appearance of another world Teacher. What is not always acknowledged is that these are happenings which will involve pain. Because with the coming in of a new ray energy, with the commencement of a new era, there will inevitably be much disruption of form, much breaking of accepted patterns, much stepping up of vibratory capacity, until existent life demonstrations have achieved the adaptations that will enable them to receive and withstand the incoming potencies.

Perhaps here lies the apotheosis of pain—pain, which down the long corridors of time has prodded and pushed and bedevilled men until now, through its agency, they are capable of responding to the divine energies impinging on the planet, and of becoming cooperators with the Hierarchy in demonstrating divine Purpose and establishing the divine Plan on earth. [-]