Expanding Horizons — James A. Long

Investment in Strength

The struggle of mankind to move from the darkness into the light has engaged the attention of generations of serious-minded citizens in every quarter of the globe. Century after century there have been individuals who have dared to storm the "gates of heaven," and infuse courage and a larger vision into the thinking of mankind. Side by side with these few, however, has been the dead weight of those who refuse to meet even halfway the responsibility of humanhood. Today the critical nature of decision is a universal challenge — no longer the privilege of the few, but the charge of all. But how to meet that challenge intelligently and wisely?

It is one thing to glimpse a vision of a more enlightened approach, quite another to implement it. The age-old virtues of charity, discrimination, courage and understanding take years, maybe millennia, to become a solid investment in character. Everywhere men are asking themselves: if the battle of light against darkness continues endlessly, what of the use of force in our human relationships? If we see nature using force in her kingdoms, how can we expect man not to use force to bring about his will?

In the process of growth, naturally there is struggle and a conflict of wills. But we can question whether nature ever forces her growth. There is a world of difference between the compulsion of force and the beneficent use of strength. In physical matters force undoubtedly works, for it takes only a few bulldozers and earth-movers to "remove a mountain." But in the higher levels of thinking and action, what do we invariably run into when force is applied? Opposition and more opposition, with force pitted against force, and no solution in view. Yes, in every human relationship we do indeed find force, plenty of it: the force of the human will trying to compel change, trying to bulldoze its way through mountains of opposition. But if there are mountains other than those of rock and earth, do they not require implements of the spirit rather than of matter?

The workings of nature are quiet, yet strong; and while man can take a flower in a hothouse and by the application of forced heat hasten its maturity, in doing so he speeds its death. We all remember the passage in Matthew where Jesus reminds his listeners that "from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Should we infer that Jesus meant that we must literally take the kingdom of spiritual things by force? Looking into the original we find that this injunction can with equal accuracy be translated in this way: "The kingdom of the heavens is overpowered, and the strong (of mind) seize it." The verb "overpower," coming from the root bia, in ancient Greek usage signified not only "bodily strength or power," but also "strength of mind." So why not interpret Jesus' admonition as "the kingdom of spiritual things must be taken by strength, and those of strong mind seize it."

The crisis of today is not new — it has been met countless times in ages past, but not in recorded history has there been so overwhelming a concern that our actions be enlightened. With every resource at our command, spiritual, mental and physical, it would seem that victory would be simple. Yet there remains ever the natural timidity of human nature to cast off the old and seize with strength the kingdom of the new. There still are Nicodemuses who stand aloof, by their own choice, outside the circle of active responsibility; and the rich young rulers who, feeling the pull of truth, yet prefer their bonds, the "riches" of their vested thought-vehicles, and thus deny themselves the privilege of joining the vanguard.

The hope of the world does not lie in doctrinal religion, in philosophic speculation, nor in scientific experiment. It lies where it has always been: in the courage and the vision of each succeeding generation to move with the tide of progress as it advances from one cycle to the next. We must look ever to the young in heart — not always the young in years, but the young in resilience of spirit — to chart new pathways of achievement so that the generations to follow may continue the upward progress of the race.

The youth of today are proving that there is a deep fund of unselfishness in their natures, coupled with a desire to do something creative with their lives. Some of them, it is true, are encountering serious difficulty in making the adjustment to maturity, but these are an insignificant percentage compared to the pulsing life-wave of stronghearted, determined, and highly intelligent young folk who are zealous in their endeavor to prepare themselves to meet the challenge of this century. Searching questions they ask, not the least of them centering on matters of birth and death, and their interrelationships as human units in the greater evolutionary plan. There is a self-reliance of spirit and of mind that no longer will accept the tired literalisms of religious dogma. The legacy of the "kingdom of heaven" is theirs — not for liquidation through force, but held in trust for the "strong of mind" — a legacy of freedom of thought, of action and, most important, a legacy of freedom in spiritual aspiration.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition