The Awakening Human Spirit

By Grace F. Knoche
When to the new eyes of thee
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linkéd are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star; . . .
— Francis Thompson

Poets and bards of every age sing of our kinship of spirit, and we respond joyously. How strange that we allow intolerance and hate to mar our lives, more particularly when the whole of nature is a continuing reminder of our connectedness. As naturalist John Muir soon discovered, "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

People everywhere intuitively long for a complete turnaround in our civilization, with war seen for what it is: an outrage against the human spirit. Strange how difficult it is to achieve what surely the vast majority of the billions of human beings on our planet ardently long for — peace and a spontaneous, disciplined give-and-take — so that all together we might move consciously into a new era of respect for one another, where instead of wars and their disastrous consequences there will be thoughtful resolution of personal, national, and international crises. It's time we consciously move out of the mental and psychological grooves made by centuries of distorted thinking, and recognize that periodic wars are not inevitable; more important, that all change in civic and world affairs must start with the individual. We cannot expect nations to act wisely and brotherly until all of us first take ourselves in hand, and vow with all the soul strength at our command to make the Golden Rule an ever-living presence in our deepest being so that it will be reflected in daily practice. We place our trust in the invincible power of the human spirit eventually to forge and sustain an honorable and durable peace among all nations and races. If this seems utopian, let it be so.

"Without a vision the people perish"; by the same token a vision such as the one above, held steadfastly, generates its own dynamism. Constancy to a noble and altruistic goal will indeed make all possible in time. During the last century the world has come a long way in fraternal recognition of the uniqueness of the spiritual, intellectual, artistic, and material gifts that each people and race contribute to the totality of human culture. We must at all costs keep alive the vision, while remaining aware that in personal as well as in global affairs no change for the better can be achieved by legislation or committee decision alone. There must first be a genuine change of heart, of mind, and of will in each of us, a profound recognition that every human being is a brother pilgrim, aspiring as we are to discern the true in the false and to follow the mystic "golden mean" between extremes.

Truly we are a brotherhood, linked by our common humanity. Our individual successes and failures exert a rippling effect on the whole of mankind. A sobering thought, to realize that in lives long past, in the present, and in the aeons to come, our individual and collective karmas have been, are, and will be linked. More to the point, we are bonded not only with one another but also with every kingdom of nature, with the celestial realms as well as with Gaia, our Mother Earth. Because we are at the core of our being one in essence, how the least of us thinks and acts leaves a tracing, faint or deeply etched, on every other human being, indeed on every life-atom in the cosmos. Every time we indulge in petty or unkind feelings we close ourselves off from our inner light and by so much cast a shadow on the lives of others; conversely, every glint of radiance from within us helps to illumine our surroundings.

Ever since we had a mind that could respond to the wonder of starlight and the beauty of love, we have encountered the light and the dark side of human nature. What is needed today is an expanded vision that reaches far into the past and into the future — a theosophic perspective that rejuvenates the spirit and gives renewed hope and courage to handle the daily karma. Assuredly, every life-spark throughout the cosmos is divinely born, each with its unique evolutionary potential. Let us hold fast to the knowledge that we are first and foremost stellar beings, imbodying as humans for a sublime purpose. A short poem by Emily Dickinson is wonderfully apt:

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.
The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king.

Despite the menacing signs all around, I feel an immense hope for the future. It is as though an armageddon were in process before our eyes, between the altruistic urgings of the heart and the selfish demands of the personal nature, between the creative energies and the destructive, the spiritual and the psychic/material: an armageddon sparked into being by revolutionary ideas of universal brotherhood, of the oneness of all life, of divinity rather than matter as the kinetic agency behind evolution. These very ideas have now penetrated all strata of society, so that hundreds of thousands of all ages and backgrounds are pressing for their wider acceptance. While the forces of opposition are powerful, let us never forget that eventually the light triumphs because backed by nature's forward evolutionary current. Regardless of the backlog of karma an individual, people, nation, or race may have stored up, the scales of karma are thoroughly just, and in that justice is profound compassion. Light and darkness, peace and strife — there is purpose in nature's seeming duality of method and structure. Nothing happens, not even the most fearful calamity, but there is healing in its wake, though time may be needed for this to be recognized.

Our oneness in divinity with all other god-sparks fortifies our resolve to fulfill not only our individual dharma, but the larger dharma of which we partake by virtue of being an intrinsic part of the macro-universe. We come to realize that the weighty problems faced by millions over the globe are not theirs alone, but are ours as well. We have a signal part in helping to eradicate the causes of humanity's heartache and hopefully, in time, to lessen appreciably the cruel suffering in our world. Gautama Buddha said: Let your love penetrate first to one quarter of the world, then to a second, a third, and to the fourth until it encompasses all beings everywhere. Millions of people do just this, without prompting — not as a formal rite, but as a spontaneous gift of the heart. The very outreach of concern lifts the thought-atmosphere of the globe, for love is healing; it regulates disturbed equilibrium and, when pure of selfish intent, goes far to dissolve those mental and emotional knots that are at the root of destructive tensions. So exquisite in design is nature's economy that our selfless aspirations to ameliorate human sorrow pass both inward and outward simultaneously: inward to nourish our god-essence, and outward to sustain the efforts of all who have a genuine care for their fellow humans. Every loving thought and deed, offered spontaneously and without regard for self-benefit, adds potency to the creative energies that flow through and enliven the whole of nature, from cosmos, to sun, moon, earth, and every one of nature's families of lives. Indeed, the karma of all is amazingly interwebbed: "The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen" (Saint-Exupéry).

Every shaft of light that pierces the gloom makes a trail, and sensitive hearts looking in its direction feel the call to follow the gleam. Our present and continuing challenge is to match our lives to our ideals, which demand that we consistently strive to choose the wiser rather than the easier course in small as well as large concerns. If this is our goal, then we are on the banks of the bodhisattvic stream of service. When discouragement rears its head and we tend to despair over the plight of our civilization, too often out of alignment with its splendid possibilities, we would do well to recall how long-suffering are the Patient Ones, our guardians and protectors who watch and wait, confident that one day we will wake up and consciously self-direct our lives. Then we will joyously work with the creative forces of our planet, taking heart in the knowledge that every god-spark is a micro-universe in process of becoming. Given time, experience, and the urge to grow, no power in heaven, earth, or the underworld will be able to hold back the awakening human spirit.

(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 2006; copyright © 2006 Theosophical University Press)

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