High Challenge

By James A. Long

From what perspective can we view present circumstances so that we may see more clearly the positive implications they contain? Certainly we cannot consider merely our own individual problems, nor the conditions in this or that particular nation, nor even the relationships existing among half the peoples of the globe, while ignoring the other half. Only a universal concept of humanity's progress as a whole can help us recognize the constructive elements underlying today's era of tension. While it may seem utopian to try to think in terms of centuries rather than in decades, the fact remains that we are experiencing the direct result of centuries of action. By the same token, mankind's life in future centuries will bear the mark of today's actions or inaction.

The human spirit is not conquerable by force of arms or by force of words. We must recognize that what we are experiencing are not mere surface ripples from the winds of destiny, but outer signs of the deep subterranean rumblings of the soul of mankind in its struggle to free itself from bondage to custom and half-knowledge. People everywhere are seeking wider horizons of opportunity in which to give fuller expression to their inherent impulse to evolve. However complex the interrelations of peoples and nations may appear, the common denominator is the search for freedom freedom for individual souls to find their natural level in the ocean of life, unhampered by accepted dogmas of past eras, whether those be economic, political, scientific, or religious.

As we approach the Lent and Easter period, the symbology of the Christ story takes on deeper and more universal meaning. The authorities of custom, heavy with inertia, attempted to crucify the spirit of a new era rather than give it lodgment in their hearts. They scourged a scapegoat to cover up their own weakness and ignorance. That body may or may not have been crucified. But many more than two thousand years of history have proven that the human spirit can neither kill nor be killed; that no weapon can divide it, no bonds contain it. Destroy its vehicle and it will find embodiment in a newer and stronger dwelling place. Like the phoenix, mankind has arisen again and again from the ashes of what seemed at the time to be ruin. Only we ourselves can sever the golden thread of our immortal spirit linking us with the unending future.

Now we are facing the challenge of bringing to birth the spirit of a new two-thousand year era, to succeed the one represented by the simple but dramatic incident of there being no room in the inn to receive that which was to be born. As we penetrate the outer strata of confusion and trepidation, we sense a dynamic pressure of anticipation a searching for room in the inn of established accommodations in which this new spirit can be delivered. Are the lodgings available today, built from the customs and materials of the past, again overfilled with adherence to dying traditions?

One fact we must realize with Oliver Wendell Holmes: civilization will leave its low-vaulted past and build itself more worthy mansions. Always, age after age, whenever there is a decline in virtue and an insurrection of injustice, a fuller expression of truth seeks lodgment in human hearts. Worn-out concepts are cast off, and mankind takes on the clothing of a new epoch, where hopefully there will be justice and freedom of opportunity for all.

Perhaps the guiding star for this time is already pointing the way. Perhaps the new spirit is already born in the mystic "barn" housing the hopes of the humble but courageous peoples of the world whose trust springs from an undying faith in the future. One need but scratch beneath the surface of contemporary life to recognize that there resides in the quiet corner of the consciousness of most individuals, not merely the desire to work constructively for the welfare of others but likewise an increasing awareness that the burden of progress rests upon the shoulders of every one of us.

Through the lens of broadened perspective we can glimpse the unfolding of an entirely new set of values, however strongly opposed they still are by restrictive elements. The coming age of consciousness has indeed the potential to propel the whole of mankind onto a higher plateau of growth and experience, provided we do not neglect the divine impulse which brought it into being. In league with the divine impulse from the god-essence within, we can transform a great anticipation into the greater reality of a new era fully born.

There are no ultimates: no frontiers to the expansion of human consciousness; no finality to the spiritual forces that may flow to mankind; no limits to the interchange and circulation between the smallest atomic particle in our universe and the farthest sun or star. Let us, then, with wisdom and courage, meet the high challenge of our time.

(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 2006; copyright © 2006 Theosophical University Press)

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