The Two Shores

By H. R. Opdenberg

Baptism in the Jordan, purification in a temple lake, crossing a sea or river: in both the Old and the New Worlds we find the image of the "two shores" — our world and the world of truth and reality. Gnostic thinkers saw the same symbolism in the words, "I have said that you are all gods and children of the Highest, if you hasten to flee Egypt to cross the Red Sea and enter the wilderness." In Gnostic writings, Egypt symbolizes the descent of the soul into the material worlds to learn whatever these worlds can teach.

Carl Jung made some interesting remarks on a dream he once had which made a lasting impression on him:

I was on a hiking trip. I was walking along a little road through a hilly landscape; the sun was shining and I had a wide view in all directions. Then I came to a small wayside chapel. . . . on the floor in front of the altar, facing me, sat a yogi — in lotus posture, in deep meditation. When I looked at him more closely, I realised that he had my face. I started in profound fright, and awoke with the thought: "Aha, so he is the one who is meditating me. He has a dream, and I am it." I knew that when he awakened, I would no longer be.
I had this dream after my illness in 1944. It is a parable: My self retires into meditation and meditates my earthly form. To put it another way, it assumes human shape in order to enter three-dimensional existence, as if someone were putting on a diver's suit in order to dive into the sea. When it renounces existence in the hereafter, the self assumes a religious posture, as the chapel in the dream shows. In earthly form it can pass through the experiences of the three-dimensional world, and by greater awareness take a further step toward realization. — Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp. 323-4

This is not the standard view of someone who sees no more than what presents itself to the senses. We are part of an invisible reality containing the transcendental powers of the real human being, and the "other shore" is the most important fact in our life.

Might not the suffering and problems that human beings experience have as much to do with being "woken up" as with "unpaid karmic debts"? There is no such thing as chance; life is an unbroken procession of eye-openers. The dark night of the soul brings the light of understanding, purification, and inner perception. People today feel a growing desire to do something about the suffering and problems of others. Everything changes in the life of Scrooge as soon as he takes an interest in the feelings of Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. But are we sufficiently aware that the forces of the universe are spiritual in nature? H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

It is quite natural . . . that the materialist and the physicist should imagine that everything is due to blind force and chance, and to the survival of the strongest, even more often than of the fittest. But the Occultists, who regard physical nature as a bundle of most varied illusions on the plane of deceptive perceptions; who recognise in every pain and suffering but the necessary pangs of incessant procreation: a series of stages toward an ever-growing perfectibility, which is visible in the silent influence of never-erring Karma, or abstract nature — the Occultists, we say, view the great Mother otherwise. Woe to those who live without suffering. Stagnation and death is the future of all that vegetates without a change. And how can there be any change for the better without proportionate suffering during the preceding stage? — The Secret Doctrine 2:475

Without the chance to learn, life would be without depth, without real content, and too unsatisfying to endure. To really become the things we long to be demands will power and training. The will power we must provide ourselves; life provides the training.

People perform passion plays and speak about divine passion. "Passion" is derived from the Greek pathein, "to feel," "to experience," just as sympathy means "feeling together." Pathein alongside mathein "to learn," "to know": feeling and experiencing alongside intellectual knowledge. Our culture has a religious faith in learning through measuring and counting, and this has its merits, but it will never lead to true understanding because it remains forever outside things. Even the most detailed study of friendship means nothing to someone who does not find friendship in his or her heart. This applies to all things: to really know something, we must have experienced it.

Here lies one of the biggest paradoxes: if we share with others what our heart longs to give, enlightenment comes of its own accord, whereas if we act with that express purpose in mind, it does not — because it is not genuine. Naturally, we must constantly strike the right balance, but if we do so with our intellect alone, we will go astray again and again. We must follow our spontaneous impulses in deciding how to act. This is something which the other person draws out of us, as it were. And this is what took form deep within us in the most moving moments of our life.

There is no substitute for this, and it is completely different from what our personal self gives to the personal self of others. If we act on the basis of the greatness within us and see others as representatives of the greatness in themselves, a direct link is established, free of interfering, superfluous baggage. At such times we practice natural clairvoyance, and recognize the inner need of others. This arises from the treasure-chambers of the soul and is the appeal of like to like. There is magic and joy in this process, and there are no repercussions such as arise from the old habit of wanting to be a "personal savior."

The things that happen to people sometimes resemble the blows of fate in a Greek drama, but these events pass and there will come a time when they prove to be an indescribable inner transmutation, when the enchained Titan frees itself. Everyone's consciousness has "two shores," and everyone conducts his or her dialogue with life, which initiates the miracle of transmutation.

(From Sunrise magazine, December 2001/January 2002; copyright © 2001 Theosophical University Press)


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