“Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Quote is from a poem titled “A Psalm of Life”. We should expect, therefore that it is about life, and it is. But it is not just about the fleeting life in physical form. It is also about eternal life in spirit. That is the life that really matters.
Life is not, we are assured, a mere dream. Nor is it empty, meaningless. But it is those things if we look only at physical life, which is brief and full of misery and illusions.
Longfellow tells us this negative view of life happens only to those whose soul is sleeping. This makes one wonder who that might be. Most of us have been led to believe that our souls are awakened when we are born. But the great mystery schools of the past and present teach otherwise. They teach that we come into this world with our souls in a deep sleep, a kind of coma. If we don’t make the effort to awaken it, its great powers cannot help us.
The Grave is Not the Goal
That seems like an obvious statement. No one goes through life thinking that the goal is a grave. Yet many actually act as if that is the goal. Without realizing it, they head in the direction of the grave and make no effort to turn away.
Longfellow is telling us that the grave is the end of the physical body, but not the spirit and soul. The soul is immortal. It is spirit and so it exists outside the limitations of matter. It does not age. Neither does it rot. It does not reside in a grave after the body dies.
The soul moves on to spiritual realms, realms of higher consciousness. The question is, will it go on its own or take you with it? Most people seem to think they are attached to the soul by some unbreakable chains so the soul can go nowhere without them. That is not the case. The soul is capable of separating from the body and mind. It often does so when the person commits a horrendous crime such as murder. It may also do so when you die. To prevent that, you must awaken the sleeping soul and become one with it while you are still alive physically.
Be Not Cattle
More good advice from Longfellow. It’s sad when I see people on social media say that spiritual people should just observe the world and not get attached or involved in any way. They think being spiritual is just floating with the tide like driftwood. They think awakening the sleeping soul means being indifferent to what is happening in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We should not get attached to the material, but we must be involved. No great spiritual person ever took the attitude of non-involvement. Jesus got involved and taught against the false teachings of the temple knowing He would eventually be put to death for it. Buddha, St. Francis, Gandhi, and others were all active in their spiritual awakening. They knew that it is almost impossible for oppressed or hypnotized people to become spiritual awake, so they fought against the oppression—in non-violent ways. That is the correct way to be a soldier of God. So awaken your sleeping soul now, if you haven’t already done so. And then help others do the same.