Chapter 1: Go Placidly
Hear then the wisdom of the wise:
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
We enter today into one of the most beautiful worlds, that of a small document called Desiderata. It is strange because it has appeared many times and disappeared many times, hence nobody exactly knows who wrote it. Truth has the capacity to appear again and again; because of human stupidity it is lost again and again too.
Desiderata seems to be one of the most ancient documents available today, but it is copyrighted by a poet, Max Ehrmann. In his book of poems it is presented as a poem authored by him, and copyrighted in 1927 in America, although in the first edition he talks about the legend that this small document was discovered on a plaque installed in St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore when built in 1692 - but later lost. There is no proof anymore whether it was installed as a plaque in St. Paul’s Church or not. The legend is there; it has persisted. It seems Max Ehrmann again had the vision of it - it came to him as a vision. He is not really its author but only a receptacle, a medium.
This has happened to many other documents too. It happened in the case of Blavatsky’s The Voice of Silence: she is known as the authoress of the book, but the book is very ancient. She discovered it in her meditations, it appeared to her.
Many parts of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra are also very ancient, and the same is the case with Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat. Mabel Collins’ Light on the Path is of the same category, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet also.
I have looked into all Max Ehrmann’s poems but no other poem has the same quality, not even a single poem. If Desiderata was written by him then many more poems of the same quality would have flowed. It has not happened. In fact, Desiderata seems to be so different from all his poems that it is impossible to believe that it has come from the same person.
The same is true about Mabel Collins’ Light on the Path. These are strange documents. The possibility is that they have always existed - again and again lost visibly, but truth manifests itself.. Whenever there is a vulnerable soul, a receptive person, truth again starts flowing through him. And of course the person will think, “I am writing it.”
It is because of this fact that the Upanishads have no names of authors; nobody knows who wrote them, because the people who received them were very alert and aware. They were mystics, not only poets.