The Theosophical Forum – April 1937

THE PAROCHIAL PRESENT — S. H. Wylde

It was probably the contemplation of the self-sufficiency of some present-day people that led a modern writer to describe us as a "parochial generation" because we had "shut ourselves off from the past." Well, it is not the first time that a race, dazzled by its own glory, has been chided for its egotism. You remember what the Egyptian priest said to the Greek lawgiver Solon: "You Greeks are mere children, frivolous and vain; you know nothing of the past." And if you want a still stronger rebuke along the same lines, read the one roundly administered to ourselves and our forebears by the Master K. H. in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 150, beginning:

During the minority of a sub-race, its civilization is preserved for it by its predecessor, which disappears, dies out generally, when the former "comes to age." At first, most of them squander and mismanage their property, or leave it untouched in the ancestral coffers. They reject contemptuously the advice of their elders and prefer, boy-like, playing in the streets to studying and making the most of the untouched wealth stored up for them in the records of the Past.

— That is just the introduction to it; the whole is well worth looking up.

True nobility does not hide a fear of being eclipsed under the mask of vainglorious boasting. Confucius, believing in and loving the Ancients, called himself a transmitter not a maker: "I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there." Yet he lives today where probably many another, great in his own eyes, has passed into obscurity.

The mediaeval Platonic philosopher, Bernard of Chartres, held aloft a light in a dark age; yet he it was who said that if men of his day were great it was not because they had keener perceptions than the Ancients, but simply because like dwarfs they had climbed upon the shoulders of the giants of the past and so of course could see farther.

A present that looks with reverence upon the treasures of the past will in its turn become a past to be revered. Let our own day and age remember this.

As a matter of fact, it is only the consciousness of individuals or aggregates of individuals that can be parochial. The "present" whether of China two thousand years ago, of Greece during the Age of Pericles, of mediaeval Europe, or of today, cannot really shut itself off from the past. The ever-dissolving present is both past and future, an illusory moving point in the limited consciousness of man. The man of great soul who can contemplate the past with reverence is looking upon the future also; for he has transcended past, present, and future, "miserable concepts of the objective phases of the Subjective Whole," as the Master K. H. calls them, and with the Eye of Dangma looks upon the great circle of Eternity where he sees that whatever is of the nature of Truth, no matter what age or nation has expressed it, lives for ever, unspoiled by the devastator Time.


The Theosophical Forum

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