The Theosophical Forum – October 1939

THE LONG VIEW OF EVOLUTION — Ira B. Crane

Inability to take the long view has resulted in many a business failure. Anyone who has lived through a real-estate boom in a new town has seen business concerns come to birth like mushrooms, and like mushrooms, from unsoundness interiorly, wither into doubtfuls, and suddenly disappear. These failures have usually profited more in a few months than did the enduring firms in the same length of time, because the latter knew when they were mortgaging their own future, and chose to forego quick profit rather than to lose the respect and trust of a client.

In the school of life the soul stands to gain or to lose by our reaction to our experiences; were it only the personality, we should never have to learn to take the long view. This is why Theosophists are, to some critics, surprisingly inactive in using will power to meet that most popular of all demands today: "How shall I get rid of my ailments, mental and physical? Where shall I find a cure?" If the cry were, "Tell me the cause of my disease in a story that will satisfy my mind, my intellect, and my heart, so that I may gladly lay down my personal burdens, and forget myself, and take up the cause of humanity and sin no more," what a different appeal, and what a different treatment would be called forth!

This question was put to me by a friend, who had rejoiced with many in their relief, by faith cures, from suffering, but whose enthusiasm was now cooling because she had found that a certain smugness since the cure seemed to make further inquiry into the wisdom of the ages not only impossible and unnecessary, but an offense against their new discovery.

My reply to her question was prepared in my mind, for I had a very close relative who had become more separate and egotistical since her cure. I said: "What I deplore is the lack of interest they take in the long view ahead of them. How much unnecessary karman they could save themselves by thinking about evolution, instead of thinking about heaven. Because of this they do not think it worth while to settle down to mental training or to strict moral discipline. It is exactly this settling down to the idea of lives of opportunity ahead and time for intellectual and spiritual development, attained through service, that brings peace, so that the mind can be stilled. The soul then expands, revealing a background of culture and poise from stored-up experience. How interesting to Theosophists is the distinction between culture and civilization that is made by the Reverend H. E. Fosdick of New York. He shows that culture is what we are; civilization is what we use — and are not getting anywhere with.

I went on to unburden my mind: "The habit of taking the long view brings a state of self-forgetfulness, and this is the best cure for mental and physical ills. It leaves no place for the popular urgency to get results — not, of course, that illness should be neglected. But it is a fact that to take up the service of humanity as one's life work, feeling sure that one's own evolution will look after itself, is a preventive. Educators in all lines seek to discover the prevention, while, of course, with the knowledge they have gained they try to cure or alleviate suffering. Many diseases are hangovers from a former life and are fortunately working their way out. By those who do not understand this, disease is often forced back, postponed, and this brings about an emotional change in the patient that is mistaken for a change of heart. A little knowledge is not enough to fit one to teach. A true Teacher shows a man how to become human. Teach a man to save himself by knowing his sevenfold constitution and the reaction of nature upon him, and he will prefer to treat his ills philosophically and kindly, and be happy in doing it. His vision of the long road before him will help him to forget his lower nature until it has to back off the stage and disappear."

"Virtue is then the norm, the sane state. It is a more subtle process than becoming converted or substituting virtues — for what could be more misleading than the spiritual pride of consciously having virtues? It is just this that prevents the "becoming as little children." Here only can culture of the soul begin. The student now begins to think of the soul-life, rather than the one life of the personality. It was Irving Babbitt, the Harvard humanist, who warned against the "will to power" being used by those who do not understand the process of change that takes place by living the life of decorum, or the middle way. How different, he said, was the "will to affection" that must be born in a man before he can be of service to humanity. This "will to affection" is the child of much discipline, as Theosophists face it, and is not by any means a prize for converts one and all." My friend sighed, "In contrast with the present-day anxiety to get rid of things, with the relatively little inspiration following the supposed clearance, one's mind turns to its early inspirations such as the plea made by Jeremy Taylor for the "passive graces" of patience, meekness, and charity; and to Milton's attitude towards his own blindness, and the gifts of the soul that it bestowed upon him: ". . . if the choice were necessary, I would, Sir, prefer my blindness to yours." These churchmen understood how soul-culture was attained."

"Yes," I agreed, "Since we began this discussion I see two reasons why a true Teacher is more than ever needed after people have become aroused from their spiritual sleep. A Teacher would never cure a man suddenly and advise him to go into meditation. He would show him how to go about to weaken his passions, so that his aggressively trained nature would not beset him and work against him; thus causing an emotional turmoil equal to leading a man into a jungle and leaving him there — a state that makes the finding of the true Path in this life a precarious one, and often leaves the heart more crystallized."

"Another case," I continued, "is the man who has through certain religious striving gained unity with his divine soul. What does it profit him if the conundrum of his human soul is unfathomed? This latter is the soul that he is evolving. A Teacher, in this case, would probably not encourage the mystic in him, but would awaken his rational and philosophical nature, so that balance and understanding of his sevenfold constitution would result. The desire for tasting the ripe fruit immediately, and the consequent suffering, would diminish to its rightful place in his evolutionary journey."

"This does seem an unusually difficult age to work one's own way through," my friend replied. "It is an age when the three aspects of human consciousness are awakened. We demand a Teacher who can lift the veil and show the long view. The student sees then that even the Masters are still humbly striving better to know themselves, rather than to get more out of the universe. His new vision would then allow him to take Jesus seriously when he said that man could hope to do greater things than he himself had done. It is possible with evolution. The seeing eye and the hearing ear now have something to see and to hear, on the guided upward journey of the pilgrim."

"I know," she continued, "that some people come to birth with this atmosphere of true culture that nothing but evolution makes possible. They make great progress with such a background; others, who have done too much substituting within themselves of one thing for another of more personal value, have the habits of impatience and doubt so instilled that they lull themselves in blind faith and a smile. Surely nothing but the soul-qualities will count as energies when certain types of reincarnating egos are being chosen for the leading races of the future."


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