Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. . . . many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. — Matthew 13:11, 13, 17
The ancient wisdom is as old as mankind itself. Today numberless fragments of its teachings are offered to us, so that the poor seeker after truth no longer knows how to orient himself in this chaos of quacks and "secrets." Myths, fairy tales, religions, gurus, philosophies, and sciences abound — and we would prefer to have an external guide show us the way and protect us from missteps.
In our present incarnation each of us has taken up old karmic threads, and fortunately we have picked up those connected with the ancient wisdom. Could we have drawn a better lot than to be born at a time when these teachings are so widely available? At a time of upheaval, when traditional values are being destroyed and forgotten, and we can help influence a new ethic for a new era? One of our most important duties to society, I believe, is to introduce in a new form the essence of those sacred teachings so long hidden from public view. We can find the basis for this new garment in The Secret Doctrine and other materials. These offer a wealth of knowledge and challenge us to make it a living reality in our lives. The moral standard which would result from this process, infused with universal brotherhood and spiritual love, would further humanity's inner development and point the way along the upward arc of the evolutionary cycle.
The central question is, how can we pursue self-directed evolution? Of course we can drift with the evolutionary stream, coming into existence and passing away in the slow rhythm of universal life, and as long as we don't consciously go against cosmic processes, we will progress slowly but steadily. Self-directed evolution demands more. The oracle of Delphi advised us: "Know yourself." To know ourself means to think and to use our consciousness actively in our progress. Or — is there still something more? If we focus on ourselves while using our intelligence to shape our development, we are being self-centered even if we ultimately further our spiritual growth. The Bible contains the very important injunction, "not my will, but thine, be done," meaning the will of our higher self — our higher thinking capacity or intuition, not our lower analytical mind. In short, we have to let our intuition lead our evolution.
But we may rightly say, "I can't do this yet. My intuition speaks to me only occasionally, most often when I haven't sought it. And when I could really use it, there is an icy silence at the core of my being. What should I do?" Goethe in his Legacy hints where we can seek:
Turn inward now without delay,
Therein the Center you will find
Which no noble soul should doubt.
There you will lack no rules,
For the independent conscience
Is the child of your day-to-day ethic.
Just as a complete hologram can be reconstructed from a minute splinter of it, so the complete image of the universe is stored within our inmost self.
H. P. Blavatsky's Voice of the Silence gives us clear guidance on how we can make true spiritual progress:
Bestride the Bird of Life, if thou would'st know.
Give up thy life, if thou would'st live. — p. 5
This truth is so simple and direct as to be difficult for us to recognize. It means living our life in deep trust that everything is ruled by justice and that each moment brings us to the right place with the right people and the right events. This is self-directed evolution: because we do not have the complete picture, we have to flow with events, giving the best we can at each moment. In this way life virtually forces upon us the experiences we need. We need only let it happen, watching carefully in order to learn the language of our own inner guide, our higher self. If we recognize that nothing happens by chance, that life unfolds in logical, coordinated steps before our eyes, we will develop the necessary trust in the justice of the karmic law.
How can we tread the path of which Jesus says: "I am the way, the truth, and the life"? In learning to identify more and more with the path which our higher self shows us, we automatically approach our inner guide, our inner god, and learn to understand its language. Everyday life is our teacher, whether we are a laborer, secretary, manager, homemaker, or public figure. It is our daily life, not some metaphysical school, which prepares us for the higher spiritual experiences available to mankind.
What we take with us from life to life is ourselves. Only what we live — and are — have we made our own; our thoughts, logical deductions, and brain-mind knowledge are limited to this present incarnation. We can develop our character by becoming more selfless, more brotherly, by consistently trying to live more potently the laws of compassion and the oneness of all. We may as well abandon the study of the ancient wisdom or scientific knowledge if we aren't ready to put into practice, as well as we can, the insights we gain.
HPB's words in The Secret Doctrine indicate the course for mankind far into the future:
neither the collective Host (Demiurgos), nor any of the working powers individually, are proper subjects for divine honours or worship. All are entitled to the grateful reverence of Humanity, however, and man ought to be ever striving to help the divine evolution of Ideas, by becoming to the best of his ability a co-worker with nature in the cyclic task. The ever unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all causes, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart — invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through "the still small voice" of our spiritual consciousness. Those who worship before it, ought to do so in the silence and the sanctified solitude of their Souls; making their spirit the sole mediator between them and the Universal Spirit, their good actions the only priest, and their sinful intentions the only visible and objective sacrificial victims to the Presence.— 1:280
Let us then mount the bird of life and learn the language of the gods by starting to listen to the voice of the silence here and now, each moment of our precious life. Each breath, each heartbeat, brings us closer to the time of reaping and resting. Let us mount the bird of life, the great bird of longing for our spiritual home, and learn anew that the soul has wings.
(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 2000; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)
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The soul of man is on the move, seeking to build ever new and freer environments in which to express its innate potentialities. Just as with every breath we replace worn-out cells so that we may meet each day refreshed, so does the body of humanity draw into incarnation new complements of souls so that each succeeding generation can meet and fulfill the responsibilities of its time — of its time, not the responsibilities of a previous decade or century.
Nature in her own ways is helping us to bring forth from the current struggles a new concept of man, when each of us will see all others as a part of himself, when the human soul will be free to recognize his Maker as his own immortal self. A foolish dream? It has been realized before many times in past millennia, and will be realized again and again as the great cycles of growth proceed. When we allow the old ways to dissipate themselves so that an emancipated spiritual philosophy can assume its rightful place, then the new era will be fully born and we can envision our present civilization going forward into a truly golden age of achievement. — James A. Long