Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

From what I can gather from your last letter, I should render you my heartiest congratulations. I am not sure what manner of elevation this is, but it is evident that you have longed for it. It is also evident that you consider it the result of your own hard work, and that is always to be commended.

May an old man put in a word here? You have worked through failure; now you must learn to deal with success. It brings its own difficulties, often the worse because we are not prepared for them.

First, you must know that success, like failure, is fleeting. Today’s grand news is tomorrow’s empty wind. Success, by its very nature, demands more of you. You will soon be working hard again, thinking of the next elevation.

Success and failure are imposters – both. They are things of this world; temporary. What does it matter if you are a beggar, when you understand divine mysteries? What profit is it to be a king, if you are a pagan? So these things must be taken in hand. Success, like money, is a good servant but a cruel master.

Indeed, success is more dangerous to the soul than is failure. For it breeds the confidence that says, “I know how to deal with this.” Indeed, perhaps your method worked this once. But your right method now may be the wrong method later. If your success blinds you to new ways of accomplishment, have you really succeeded?

There is also the danger of the closed mind. Having triumphed, you may conclude you have no more to learn. No scholar would make that mistake, but a man of the affairs of this world might. To cease to learn is to wither from the neck up. (When you get older, this is cured by having grandchildren.)

Worst of all is the danger of pride. Your success may cause you to look down upon those about you. You may conclude, like the gladiator, that the vanquished do not deserve to live. Thus does pride corrupt the heart; I have seen this with my own eyes.

This is why the church teaches the virtue of humility. Humility teaches that only God knows the way which is perfect. Humility teaches that one always has something of profit to learn. Humility is the great defense against pride.

If you would master yourself, young friend, master this success. Such mastery will be a greater success, for in your elevation you have mastered the world. In humility you master yourself.

Having achieved my altitude, I remain,

Isaac the alchemist

Previous     Home     Next