The Theosophical Forum – June 1948

THE ILLUSION OF TIME — Betula Baumer

There is often a great gap between philosophy as spoken and as realized. We all know that time is an illusion, but how many of us treat that proposition as a fact in daily life. We speak of reincarnation and think of it as lives in terms of time, but it would be quite as reasonable to think of reincarnations as progressions or retrogressions in character, in growth, with knots at regular intervals where balances are struck and the next step is made with the balance carried over as a whole instead of as separate items.

Philosophers have frequently dreamed of occult centres on earth, or occult communities or brotherhoods, and many have longed to belong to such. Do they know what is involved? Some very genuine occult centres might consist of nothing more than a concentration of time and the consequences of that process. The qualification for such a centre might be the power acquired to live more intensely than in the world, or alternatively, it might be that power exercised in daily life.

We know how often some people's lives seem suddenly to be intensified like a photographic plate. Fate seems to fall on them all at once in every thinkable way. Some crumple up under the weight of circumstance, others become stronger by surmounting the waves of experience. Some aimlessly get through as best they can and are not much more than they were before.

Those who long for the trials of initiation often find these daily trials too much for them; they are the trials of initiation if deliberately invoked. If not so invoked they are the trials of that longer initiation called life. What other trials can we expect?

It is not difficult to imagine an occult school where the students start out with a vow to conquer all the petty failings of character, Only to find after a lifetime of effort, as they think, they have made no headway at all. If they have genuinely tried, the time of balance will come, when they find they have grown, but if they have only played the amateur it might be better that they had never vowed at all.

We imagine such a school as a wonderful place of human endeavour. It may be. It may be not. If the vow was made by the personality confusion may be worse confounded. If the vow was made by the producer behind the scenes the drama may be magnificent success or failure depending much upon the players, the tendencies, good and bad, of character. That producer is the MAN, not the personality, his servant who is ever trying to dominate him.

Can we harshly criticise such people who set out with high hopes and after a lifetime of endeavour, as they think endeavour, they fail? No. But we should be foolish if we fail to see what is happening and to profit by the lessons. Because we are not only our brother's keeper, we are our brother himself.

Let us not judge harshly then when we see a would-be pilgrim full of ambition to lead, of dislike towards a brother pilgrim, of self-indulgence, of pride, of petty personalities, of little revenges towards those who have done their duty, of desire to dominate, of desire for social prominence, of failures to rid the intuition of all these stumbling-blocks. They are positively childish and look so to the outside observer who does not know what their intensity is to the one who intensified time in his life and lives.

But we may judge the thing itself unmercifully. We should realize that it is a blot, a decayed spot in our own character appearing where it finds a more suitable stage for its public appearance; it is ourselves. We are our brother's keeper; we are our brother himself. Let us not pander to it for any reason whatever, if we wish to help him.

There is a German saying, "When two people do the same thing it is not the same thing." This is certainly true so far as time is concerned. It has been said that a man may attain to Initiation in seven hundred years, or seven years, or seven minutes. For each of these classes the process is the same, but the time seems to be different. Is it? A civilization may take centuries to grow; when its time comes it can disappear in a year. Truly time is an illusion.


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