The Theosophical Forum – March 1940

FRONTIERS OF THE SOUL — Claire Turner Wesner

What intriguing connotations and thoughts the word frontier brings to our minds: heroes, romance, adventure, trials, deprivations, conquering, and very often, death. These are the very things the soul of each one of us is meeting every day; these are the things that the soul of our modern civilization, the world today is facing; trials, sacrifice, war, adventure, conquering, failing and often death. But the root of these conditions today is not in the geographical frontier but the frontier of our own being, our own soul, each and every one of us.

Civilization has conquered the geographical frontiers of the world; it has circled the globe, it has conquered both the north and south poles, there is no more new land to explore, to find, to claim.

To this Western World, the frontier has a definite meaning in the growth and development of America since its discovery in 1492. But looking through the pages of history we see civilizations and races surging and changing from one part of the globe to another. We see nations rise, flourish, decline, and fade out of existence to be replaced by other nations, on some other portion of the globe. But never in the recorded history of the world has civilization flourished on the five continents as it does today. True, there are large areas of the earth which are comparatively unknown, but speaking broadly we find the stir and congestion of modern life everywhere; and where it does not exist, the strong world powers are trying to gain admittance by force. In America — North and South — Europe, Asia, Africa to a less degree, there is the congestion of modern living, socially, politically, economically, and religiously.

Each nation or race is not suffering only from its own particular problems, for the world is so closely woven together with commerce and radio that what any one portion thinks and feels is reacted on the whole. Nations are no longer isolated but are forced to live, or perhaps die, together. There is no escape. We are forced at last to face ourselves, to look within our own souls, the souls of each one of us as individuals, the soul of the nations, the soul of the world. This is where we shall find the solution of our congestion and turmoil; this is where we shall find the guidance for right living, of morals and ethics; this is where our frontier now lies, not a geographical location but the frontier of the soul.

And now just what do we mean by the word frontier? The dictionary defines it as the extreme part of a country, the border, an unsettled region. But a definition which appeals to me greatly and is really more applicable to our subject is one given by Norman Foerster in the introduction to his book American Poetry and Prose. Speaking of the development of Colonial literature he says:

And of the forces which grew from an interaction of the others, no influence has been more important than that peculiar state of mind (and it is a state of mind rather than a geographical line) which we call the frontier.

This is a point I want to stress. The frontier is a state of mind. It is this state of mind which has found outward expression in the expansion of a geographical location; we might say it has been the means of releasing our mental, emotional, and spiritual energies. And this is just why we find the conditions we do on any frontier — war, hate, license, bravado, fear, dangers of the unknown. It is the result of energies being used which we know nothing of or do not control. And yet how can we grow unless we enter new fields of endeavor? And every new field, every unknown condition we enter is a new frontier for experience. As Mr. Foerster tells us farther on in his book just mentioned, " — no historian, whether literary, cultural, political, or economic, could well neglect to consider the influence of the frontier." And why? Because it is the turning-point into a new cycle.

Today humanity is entering a new cycle — it has come to a turning-point. Not only is the old order of living fast breaking down but men and women as individuals are reaching a new point, a new stage of evolutionary development. It is this change in the hearts and minds of men, of the individuals as units of the whole, which is reflected in world-conditions. In the New York Times, March 5, 1939, H. G. Wells is quoted as follows:

We are in the darkness before the dawn of a vast educational thrust. In the near tomorrow a collective human intelligence will be appearing and organizing itself in a collective human will.

Yet men and women do not know why this change is taking place in their hearts and minds because they do not know or understand themselves. Never was there greater need for religion and philosophy than there is today. As individuals our souls need guidance. Just as the old frontiersmen needed their scouts and guides to point and direct the way, so do we as souls need scouts and guides to point and direct the way through our ignorance and confusion. This is just what the technical teachings of Theosophy can do for us. It is the modern Theosophical Movement which can guide humanity and it is the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion behind the Theosophical Movement who are trying to guide our souls in the right direction, if we will but heed them.

Any experience which is new, strange, and unfamiliar to us is a new frontier for our soul, and these frontiers are many. In our growth through life from birth to childhood, to adulthood, old age, and death, the expansion of our consciousness constantly brings us new experiences: the growth of the soul through aeons of evolutionary development brings us even greater experiences: when individuals try to contact the invisible or astral realms by clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy and so forth, new frontiers of experience, and most dangerous ones too, are contacted: death and the processes of disimbodiment take the soul through new but more or less familiar frontiers: but perhaps the greatest frontier which the soul can cross and conquer is that of initiation, because it is through initiation that the soul consciously contacts the different spheres of the Universe. Success means glory, failure means death.

These are the points I want to touch upon, to point out the real necessity and value of becoming familiar with the technical teachings of Theosophy and to show how practical these teachings are.

Evolution to the Theosophist means growth, an unfolding of the inner faculties, a development from within outwards. The outward manifested form is only the result of inner growth and as our inner and higher faculties evolve and develop, the outward form changes to meet its needs. So we can see at once that evolution occurs on all planes of our being, physical, psychical, mental, and spiritual. All life is changing, growing, evolving; there is no such thing as immobility in nature. Such a condition would mean stagnation and death. All the various kingdoms of nature, plant, mineral, animal, are evolving. Each kingdom is but the outward expression of an inner Intelligence which finds the particular kingdom in which it is manifest the most suitable vehicle for its present development. The vehicle is not the important consideration, but this inner Intelligence, or Guiding Force, which is the heart, the center of every composite and manifest entity.

Man then, as we know him today, will not always be a man. By inner growth, by the expansion of his soul, he will become something greater, first a master of life, a god-man, and then a god. To make this point clear it may be well to show how this Intelligence or Divinity unfolds its powers through the various kingdoms of nature.

First of all this evolutionary principle expresses itself as motion, the pulsating motion of space, often spoken of by Theosophists as the Great Breath. From motion came attraction. This attraction caused concretion and we have the kingdom of imbodiment. But imbodiment is not sufficient, a definite form is needed and we note this Inner Intelligence, this Guiding Power, manifesting as individualized shapes and we have the mineral or crystal kingdom. Here we see growth not only by accretion, as in crystals, but a growth which is in the direction of a definite form. Then in the next higher kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, we have not only definite form, but motion. With the plant kingdom we can see the physical motion of growth, adaptation to climatic conditions, the flowering and dying with the seasons. Next with the animal kingdom we see this Inner Intelligence not only in motion but motion controlled by desire and intention. As the flowers love the sun, the animals love their young — they show emotion and feeling. Then with us, the human kingdom, we have not only controlled and conscious motion but the power to control motion outside ourselves. The Inner Intelligence is now expressing itself directly in man who has the power of free will and choice. But is this the end of outer expression and manifestation? No. Man will someday evolve to the next higher kingdom — the god kingdom — which not only controls motion outside and beyond itself but can actually and consciously, by the power of choice and free will, BECOME that which is outside himself. Such powers are expressed in degree even by the chela passing through initiation, who must place his consciousness into the various kingdoms of nature and actually become those kingdoms not only below him but up and beyond him to the planets and stars of the Universe.

With this brief outline we can see the inner unfoldment of the soul of nature expressing itself first as motion, then attraction, then individualization, then organization, then motion controlled by desire, then the power of free will and choice and the control of motion outside and beyond the individual, and then the power to actually become that which is outside and beyond the individual manifestation. From this we can get a slight adumbration of what is ahead for the human soul — what new and vast frontiers there are for it to explore. Instead of the physical or geographical boundaries, we have the universe for our frontier.

Now, to come home a little more closely let us consider those fields of experience which are not quite so abstract. Here I refer to the practices of contacting the invisible or astral worlds through the medium of hypnotism, clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, or some other form of psychism. I dare say, almost everyone has either had some such experience himself or has personally known of some one who has had. That such astral realms exist is a fact taught by Theosophy and it is something which is constantly being studied and investigated by modern scientific research. We must remember that man's evolutionary progress is very slow and that our faculties unfold themselves gradually over a period of many lives. We do not gain any special or unusual powers or become highly intelligent or spiritual all at once; these are processes of gradual unfoldment from within outwards. Also we must remember that Man is a composite being — he is not matter, or emotion, or intelligence, or spirit, per se, but is a wondrous and mysterious combination of all of these faculties or qualities. And to understand just what happens when we contact the astral realms we should know something of man's composite being.

To begin with there is the lower, or material part of our nature which is transitory; it is not permanent but disintegrates at physical death. This lower part is composed of the physical body, the astral body, which is only slightly more ethereal than the physical, the desires and emotions, and the lower mind. From this we can readily see that any demonstrations of the astral or psychic faculties have to do with the lower part of our being, and that it is not true intelligence or spirit. It is not the true soul of our being. The true soul of man is the higher part of his consciousness — his higher intelligence or mind plus his spiritual and divine nature. It is this part, this higher part, which is conditionally immortal and lives from life to life. This is the real soul of man, which is growing and evolving through the use of the lower faculties.

Many and varied are the modern schools of psychic practice and research. There are the mediums and sensitives who consciously contact the astral realm of this lower nature. They see visions of spooks or receive messages from the invisible worlds. The astral world is really very gross, as said before, it is only slightly more ethereal than the physical. The so-called spooks and elementals which inhabit it are the reliquiae of departed souls. They are nothing more than the grossest passional and degraded substance of nature. Such spooks and elementals are in the process of disintegration. They have been severed from the higher spiritual planes of life. This is the lowest, material portion of the constitution, which is dropped and left behind by the real soul of man who has been freed from earth by death. Contacting such an atmosphere has a very bad effect on anyone. Here is a strange unknown land full of horror, decay, and danger; and yet, through ignorance, we dare to let the consciousness of our soul be carried into such a frontier without knowledge and without guidance.

Then there are the hypnotists, and those who practice telepathy or thought-transference. Such persons contact the lower mind only, the mind of the lower nature; but it is probable that much scientific progress has been made in the study of telepathy within the past few years. Yet the investigation of telepathic power, or as science calls it, extra-sensory perception, is from a purely mechanical basis. How much better it would be to develop our functions of inspiration and intuition. These are the qualities of the real man. Where telepathy can carry us only into the borderland of our soul-frontier, inspiration and intuition can expand our souls to cosmic reaches. It is by the expression of inspiration and intuition that the greatest works of art, literature, music, science, and philosophy have come to us, and not through the powers of thought-transference.

Then there are the psychologists who are perhaps making the most scientific and balanced progress in the study of the human being and his possibilities. They consider not only the lower mind and the emotional nature but the more advanced consider man as an evolving soul. Of course there are many schools of psychology, each studying man's composite make-up from different aspects, and naturally some are nearer the truth and more progressive than others. Yet they are all trying to adjust man to his surroundings and his mode of living. There are modern psychologists who are sincerely endeavoring to help man to understand himself. They are breaking down old barriers by declaring that man is potentially a self-reliant individual and not a helpless non-entity, drifting haphazardly on the sea of life. Here I would like to quote a paragraph from the book, The Re-Discovery of Man by Dr. Henry C Link, Director of the Psychological Service Center in New York City. He says:

Man is still the potential creator rather than the victim of his creations. He is a creature of free will and untold possibilities, not the slave of environment. His capabilities are limited not so much by heredity or poverty as by his own vision of himself.

And this is just what Theosophy declares — man is limited by his own vision of himself. Yet the modern psychologist has not a comprehensive view of man's nature and destiny. None of these schools of thought or psychic research study or consider the complete man. This is what men and women need more than anything, a knowledge of their own nature, from the physical to the most divine essence at the heart of their being. Humanity is suffering from too much emotion and too much brain-mind — its soul needs the guidance of the spiritual nature. It needs the true vision of itself which can only come through the development of the higher intellectual and spiritual faculties, expressing themselves in the control of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Broadly speaking then, we can say that man is dual: he has a higher and a lower nature with the soul fluctuating between the two. As the early pioneers had to conquer the dangers of the Western frontier, so do we, our souls, have to conquer the dangers and pitfalls of our lower nature, conquer our lower passions and desires and avoid the dangers of abnormal psychic practices. We must awake to our responsibilities toward each other, help each other along, become something more than animated matter. We must conquer present conditions before we can go on to new and larger frontiers. It takes strong characters to explore new fields.

Such strong characters are always with us, guiding and helping humanity. Such are the great mystics, poets, and philosophers. But greater still are those real frontiersmen of humanity, the spiritual leaders of the ages, some greater than others, but all pointing to the same goal, trying to awaken our own spiritual nature that our soul many rise and become at one with it. The Masters behind the Theosophical Movement today are such spiritual leaders and teachers, guiding and helping us in the right direction, if we will but heed them. These Masters are the spiritual frontiersmen of humanity, and the teachings they have given us, the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, known today as Theosophy, are the guide-posts pointing the way.

By following the guidance Theosophy can give us and the guidance of our own higher natures, we can be led out of the maze of our present world-turmoil. Evolution of the soul is really frontier-less — there is no end. From men we become god-men, then gods, and on up the ladder of life, finally becoming freed souls, souls freed from matter, cosmic beings. Such are the frontiers of the soul. A poem by Walt Whitman beautifully expresses this very thought:

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

The Theosophical Forum