It is easy to talk about giving up self. Many people do. I just have, and I freely confess that I speak as one who has not yet been able to do that. I am conscious of my failures in that regard because I am aware of the tests that have been given me that I have not been equal to. But I take comfort from the fact that spiritual tests are not just examinations we either pass or fail. In fact that is not even their principal aim. They exist primarily to make us aware of ourselves; to bring out our weaknesses and enable us to see ourselves in a truer light. And I know that, while I may not have passed all my tests, at least I have learnt from them all. I have learnt something about myself and something about human nature in general. They have exposed me to myself but they have also exposed the self and how it operates to me.
Anyone who embarks on the path in a serious sense will be tested, and these tests only become tougher the more you progress. That, I’m afraid, is just how it is. You are not tested more than your capacity will bear but you are tested to stretch your capacity so many tests will be given you that you will quite possibly fail simply because you are not yet strong enough to surmount them. But the experience they give will make you stronger and more able to confront the next test successfully. It's no different to anything else. Practice makes perfect! The problem with tests of a spiritual nature, though, is that you rarely see them coming. They will come when you least expect them and in ways you don’t expect. That's what the Masters told me and that's what I have found. It is often only when a test is finished that you even know it has taken place at all. Therefore the spiritual aspirant should be on the alert at all times. Stay awake and watch yourself. Examine your motives in all that you do, and guard your reactions. I speak from experience here. I have been caught out more times than I care to remember, and I have no excuse because the Masters have warned me that I will be tested.
The reason I mention my personal circumstances is to give encouragement to others. If you have not been equal to a situation that you suspect might have been a test (of course, it doesn’t really matter whether it was or wasn’t, the effects are the same), that is not a cause for despair. I’m not saying that being ashamed of yourself is a bad thing. It’s a healthy thing as it shows remorse and makes it that bit more likely that you won’t make the same mistake next time. It also implies that you recognise your failure and are not making excuses for yourself. But don't be too downcast. Know that the teachers who guide us from the inner worlds have infinite patience and compassion, and they never judge or condemn. They know that success is built on failure, and their love is not altered by our falling short, however many times we do. At the same time, they are teachers for our souls not nursemaids for our personalities, and they will not hesitate to permit us to suffer the consequences of our actions, if that is what it takes to make us learn. Again, I speak from personal experience.
Practical spirituality is very different to theoretical spirituality. We may be learned in esoteric matters and proficient meditators but the demon of ego always lurks within, and it is that demon that tests are there to bring out and reveal. A test will do this but then it is up to us to recognise what is happening and accept it rather than resist or deny it, which we are quite at liberty to do if that is what we want, or rather what our ego persuades us to want. The Masters never go against free will and so, while they will give us opportunity, which is what a test actually is, how we respond to that opportunity is our affair. If we choose to neglect it we may be given another chance and maybe yet another, but we should also realise that these opportunities are not endless, and if we continue to ignore them there will come a time when they are no longer given. That doesn't mean that our spiritual training is at an end but our teachers may then leave it to the ordinary experiences of life to bring us to the point where they can intervene again, and do so more profitably. We will be losing time, which in one respect is fine, there is all the time in the world in eternity, but isn't it better to make faster progress and justify our teachers' faith in us?
There is a reward for measuring up successfully to a test. It is to move on to a harder level! I speak in the book of tests I had in relation to Michael in that his personality was very different to mine in a worldly sense, and that could lead to difficulties between us. These were largely resolved after a couple of years when we recognised the Masters' intention for us and purpose in bringing us together. We had the same aim and shared similar goals. Since his death my life has gone in a different direction (externally) and tests have taken different forms. They demand more from me. They probe more deeply and require a higher degree of letting go of the ego and its likes and dislikes. But that's good. As the Masters told me many years ago, "Your tests will become subtler but if you are always honest, never seeking to justify yourself, and act always with love then you need have no concerns. But if you are not watchful then the chinks in your armour will be exposed and you will stumble."
Thank goodness for tests. Sometimes they are not particularly pleasant experiences but they always have the potential to take us on to the next level, and if we accept and don't fight them then they are not so bad after all. Non-resistance and detachment are the keys to spiritual success.