The Theosophical Forum – February 1942

PARABLE OF THE BRICKLAYER — Miles MacAlpin

Long ago, during one of those cyclic periods when a planet's humanity is none too bright, a certain type of men grew old physically and died within a very few yards of the spot of their birth — as most of us do to this day in an intellectual-spiritual sense.

These "dark-age" men seemed to have a racial agoraphobia. Believing the world to be a flat disc, they worshiped the horizon as seen from their birth-place with great awe. It was the binding ring that held the world together, and any heretic who suggested travel was treated most unhappily by the masses. He was accused of wanting to shove the horizon over the edge of nothing so the world would fall apart. This seems much like what happens to major spiritual teachers to this day, if they venture to suggest intellectual-spiritual "travel" or self-directed motion. Is it not strange that we will raise eyebrows at the queer physical behavior of others while the mentality behind the eyebrows may be duplicating the queer behavior?

When the end of the cycle approached, and a new type of humanity began to ease its way into the economic situation, the adept-guardians of mankind helped the gods send an avataric spiritual messenger to offer some age-old basic truths to the world of karma-bound men. This is one of the kindly duties and pleasures of those who acquire degrees of mastership in the great college of evolution. Just how these elder brothers of humanity may be of assistance to the gods in this matter is a mystery, but a little thought on the matter brings forth the analogical thought that when we go to church to hear a minister of the gospel or to a philosophic school to hear a teacher speak, we not only go to "get something out of it" but to help build up an atmosphere that will enable the speaker to be the best possible vehicle for the truth he strives to present. It may be that at cyclic periods every adept, wherever he may be, lends something from his sevenfold nature for the use of the forthcoming avatar. A good way to know this lending technique is to become an adept and find out for oneself.

At that time the planet was too young to have evolved a Buddha from among its own man-types, so one of the more active gods, Ah Ping in esoteric name, provided an egoic consciousness for a baby that was born to worthy parents on earth, and in a matter of thirty or more years the world heard the mysteries through a "new" spiritual teacher.

To "rise above" traditional bondage was the general mystery-message for the people of that time. It was taught, as usual, in parable form to the masses and in more or less straight doctrine to immediate disciples. The age-old doctrine of expansion of consciousness by the "upward and inward path" was interpreted in many different ways by the people, and a number of odd beliefs developed when earnest but untutored folk tried to work out for themselves the literal meaning of the teacher's words.

One philosopher observed, on his daily walk to a mountain top within orthodox horizon-limits, that his horizon was considerably expanded when upon the mountain. The people had been climbing this mountain for many centuries; but their perception-limitations being what they were, and furthermore being traditionally forbidden to expand horizons, they climbed for exercise or to hunt game or pick flowers or something equally important to their daily life-problems. This may seem strange to us, yet for many centuries all the material has been at hand in natural resources but we did not think of them in terms of radio, electric lights, steam-engines, internal combustion engines or induction motors. Ions, protons and electrons were within the atom long before we smart moderns discovered their presence. For many centuries during our own recent "dark-ages" science is said to have known nothing of the blood-circulation in man's own body. And even today, do we not climb mountains of intellectual-spiritual poise merely to pick the flowers of happy thoughts and feelings that seem to grow on such mountain-moments within the orthodox sense of our own rounded-out personality? How many of us are aware of any expansion of the horizon between self and environment?

So this philosopher, evidently one of the new type of humanity in an early stage of growth, built up a school of thought around the pin-point of knowledge that had seeped out of the depths of his being. We have a few of his kind today; they are like a rose that comes to bloom and radiates its aroma, believing it to be the aroma of the whole plant kingdom. This one had a soothing voice and a good line of words and phrases, so he soon had many persons in a "rising above" class. He and his mates would ascend the mountain and study the expansion of horizon-view as they ascended. The flower-pickers and the hunters considered them quite harmless, so they let them alone, although the horizon-expanders did not make any money out of their game and were therefore a bit off-center.

Presently the mountain was too low for the aspiring ones, so the master-mind went into deep meditation. It was no secret with the followers that the master often advised the gods on celestial matters, so they had seen to it that no worldly cares hampered their teacher's colossal work. This was too good a situation to lose, and how to hold his crowd together was the main theme of the master's meditation. At a ceremonial meeting he announced that Ah Ping in a person-to-person call had revealed the true "upward and inward" path, for which the disciples were now ready. This path was for each man to build himself a tower as high as he wished, the sky being the limit if and when reached. The master would build the first tower if the disciples would get busy and make bricks.

To provide truly an inward growth, the tower must be built around the individual. So the master stood on a certain spot and started to lay bricks around himself in a circle within easy arm reach. He became an excellent bricklayer, and grew fascinated with the art of laying bricks, especially as his wall became higher than his shoulders and his hands grew closer to one another. Presently, with a shout of triumph, he fitted in the key-brick in a well-executed dome over his own head. He had discovered things about brick-laying that no one heretofore had known or conceived as a possibility.

Most of the followers held a ceremony of praise and sang songs of tribute to the teacher. They hurled anathema at the few heretics who dared suggest that the master had missed his objective. So some more schools of tower-building got their start then and there. The philosopher's bones are still within his tower.

Many of us are like that in our tower-building with doctrinal bricks. We get so interested in cementing one doctrine onto another with the mortar of compassionate love as we understand it that we forget to move along with the tower. Institutions as well as individuals are likely to do this, according to historical evidence, unless they keep alive an awareness of the dual nature of intellectual-spiritual "rising above."

How could the master-mind in the parable have kept on rising? He could have built a scaffold or he could have walked around on his wall as he built it. If there had been a seepage of water or oil into his tower he could have risen on a float; but then there would be the timing-factor between his bricklaying speed and the rise of the liquid. This is probably the closest analogy to what happens to most of us; our progress requires eternal vigilance to keep the rising liquid of emotional control, the laying of doctrinal bricks and the knowledge of wider horizons well synchronized with one another and with the builder's responsibility to humanity.

Then again, the philosopher could have built a solid tower, taking more time and material but keeping a solid footing and rising with each layer of bricks. He could have worked in a circular stair on the outside to keep his communication with the world.

Of course, this parable of rising in a physical sense must be interpreted into terms of consciousness-growth, for the rising that one does toward self-conscious godhood is not a matter of crawling up so many feet above the earth or above one's own head.

There are many points to consider in this parable; many interesting and instructive analogy-points. The institution that gets too interested in bricklaying technique is more than apt to find itself under a comfortable dome that becomes a "ring-pass-not" beyond which lie the mineral springs where heretics get baths in sulphur and brimstone. Institutional bricklaying fanaticism may again be analogous to overdone "membership-driving" — the chief interest becoming the laying of human bricks around the name of the school while the school falls behind in knowledge or in the ability to properly disseminate the knowledge it may have to new streams of human consciousness History seems to show that to build a well-cemented, horizon-limiting dogma-dome over the world's major religio-philosophic institutions, or "churches," is a good way to help bring on and to add a little more darkness to another one of those cyclic periods when the planet's humanity is none too bright.


The Theosophical Forum

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