Expanding Horizons — James A. Long

Man Will Survive

A letter from a friend expresses the feeling that there seems to him some deeper purpose unfolding, some undefined but clearly felt challenge, as though not only individuals here and there, but humanity in general were being called upon to do and to be above and beyond anything we have so far achieved. He said that among his business associates he had noted an increasing rebellion against the old type of hard materialism and a definite, though perhaps unrecognized, reaching out toward something beyond what they had so far understood. But, he added, in spite of a current of optimism among many that decency and right will in the end win out, there is a great deal of fear and bewilderment, and people are wondering how to prepare for what they feel may be developing.

It is certainly not given us to know precisely what is ahead; in fact, it would be a hazardous situation for any of us to be able to see the future in detail. The protective reason is obvious, for the moment one believes he knows exactly what is going to happen, he begins, unconsciously, to prepare for it — outwardly or objectively; and in so doing he may completely unprepare himself for it — inwardly. He invariably creates imaginary possibilities which become unnecessary roadblocks against the natural intuitive guidance that would otherwise have been his to help him handle each event as it comes, and not before.

How then can we prepare for the future? We cannot prepare for this or that event, because we don't know what will occur tomorrow or the next day or a year from now. But if we can establish our lives upon the solid foundation of principle — whatever our religious or philosophic views — and try to live the essence of our spiritual heritage, it will not matter what type of experience we or the nations of the world must meet. Our consciousness will automatically respond with the exact quality of thought and deed required for whatever eventuality the future may hold.

Moreover, all through the cycles of human growth, in every country and in every age, there have been and are today unknown and unpublicized individuals who bring to bear their quiet yet potent influence upon the destinies of their respective nations. They do not labor in the hope of recognition or personal gain, but solely that justice and freedom will eventually prevail. We rarely, if ever, hear of them and there may be among them those who are quite unaware of the extent or depth of their task, whom they are serving, and to what good ends. But is not this one of the ways in which the Guardians of humanity find, accept, and train new "laborers in the field"?

Those great souls who have the responsibility for the enlightenment of man and his protection into the future are surely as active today with their assistance as they ever were. If we could catch sufficient of their vision to glimpse even a little of the inner purport of their work, we would know that it encompasses every avenue of experience. And while we cannot discern the specific activities of these silent benefactors, we can feel their impact on world thought. Books and periodicals, even the daily press, show an increasing trend toward a freer and clearer expression of those innate Ideas which are the fountain and source of the world's treasury of wisdom. Now, once again, these ideas are coming into their own; but not without a struggle, for the stronger the urge toward liberation, the harder do the opposing forces work. Yet the very intensity of the opposition by those who would keep the human spirit in chains, grooved to a prescribed mode of thought and aspiration, attests to the growing strength of those who labor for the progress of the race. In the crucible of man's consciousness a powerful alchemy is taking place, while the prophecy of nearly a century ago is being enacted before our eyes:

Plato was right: ideas rule the world; and, as men's minds will receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance: mighty revolutions will spring from them; creeds and even powers will crumble before their onward march crushed by the irresistible force. It will be just as impossible to resist their influx, when the time comes, as to stay the progress of the tide. But all this will come gradually on, and before it comes we have a duty set before us; that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects.
It is not physical phenomena but these universal ideas that we study, as to comprehend the former, we have to first understand the latter. They touch man's true position in the universe, in relation to his previous and future births; his origin and ultimate destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal; of the temporary to the eternal; of the finite to the infinite; ideas larger, grander, more comprehensive, recognizing the universal reign of Immutable Law, unchanging and unchangeable in regard to which there is only an Eternal Now, while to uninitiated mortals time is past or future as related to their finite existence on this material speck of dirt. — K.H. (From the collection of Mahatma letters, housed in the Department of Select Manuscripts of the British Library.)

And undergirding all is the earnest hope that one day a true "Universal Fraternity" will embrace the whole of mankind.

Those of us who profess to have a sincere desire to add our mite to the betterment of man should ask ourselves: are we interested solely in the light which these great ideas can shed on our own limited environment, or are we moved to live and work so that the sun of truth may shine in the souls of all men everywhere?

Many people today are thinking along these broad and unconfined lines — clergymen and scientists, educators and writers, businessmen and housewives — trying to link together the scattered hints which for centuries have been covered by the dust of literalism. Few of us may understand "man's true position in the universe" or our relation to "previous and future births"; but all of us will respond to the truth of our origin in Divinity and to the challenge of our ultimate triumph over the weight of material existence, as the strength of our spirit takes permanent hold. If but a handful of men and women, in any part of the globe and of any or no faith, could fully liberate themselves from the enslaving influence of "the old and effete," there is no foreseeing what extraordinary effect this would have on the generations to come.

The emancipating force of these cosmic ideas is gathering momentum. When and where it will reach its crest, no one can say. But if my guess is correct, its expression will exceed anything that has occurred in the history of civilization. It will not be proclaimed with words or the blaring of trumpets; the language of the soul needs no words or noisy symbol. But we can be certain that if the inner call of humanity continues to increase in volume, an entirely new concept of life will find manifestation in high places and low.

All of this sounds fine, you say, but how will it help us to meet our problems here and now? We might not feel so bewildered if we could realize that man is not an isolated species, but is part of a cosmic pattern of growth in which the whole universe is involved. When our astronomers tell us that our own solar system is but one of trillions in space and, among the countless billions of planetary systems whirling around their individual central suns, that innumerable ones may well be "life-bearing," they are reaching to the very core of the mystery of growth. It means that the inhabitants of those stars and planets must also, like us humans, be gods in their inmost, housing themselves in temples of matter!

If we could observe the flow of history from the earliest beginnings of the evolution of a universe, which includes man's origin as well as all the kingdoms above and below him, we would see the vivifying of manifold forms by Divinity and the simultaneous awakening of the material aspect of nature, as the spark of life seeks vehicle after vehicle in which to imbody itself. Simply phrased, Spirit impregnates Matter by involving itself in increasing degree in bodies until it reaches the densest point of its cycle; the pendulum then swings upward and Spirit again emerges, causing the material to lose its dominance.

That of course is a very broad picture, but it is significant that in every ancient tradition the same "idea" is found. There must be a practical reason for this, because the more we brood upon the philosophy behind it, the greater bearing does it seem to have on our own personal development.

Let us, for the moment, think of ourselves not as human beings but as divinities — god-sparks — progressing since the very dawn of "creation" along our vast pilgrimage through material existence until we arrived at that crucial point when Man, as we know him today, had to be born. True, we were compounded of spirit and matter, of divine spark and body. But there was as yet no awareness of ourselves. Here we find spirit in a unique manner fusing with matter to bring forth a third element: the fire of Mind. From child-humans merely existing in a Garden of Eden we became self-conscious "living souls," knowing good from evil and recognizing innately that henceforth we would have to endure the hardship of self-imposed discipline as we earned our way toward godhood. This is where we stand today: product of spirit and matter we are indeed gods in essence, but as far as our present evolution goes, we are still in our human phase!

We can see then that these truths, which were given to us at the beginning of our present racial cycle, are as sound and as strengthening as they ever were and will remain valid until we graduate to a higher level of growth. That being the case, it behooves us to learn what those truths are and how to adapt them in our lives. They are the basis of the ancient philosophies of India, Greece and Persia, Egypt and China, of the Norse and Germanic traditions, and of the ancient Americas, and certainly form the heart and core of the teaching of Jesus. Once we experience their practical spiritual worth, we won't need to know with our brains what is around the next bend. We shall be prepared inwardly to meet any exigency.

The world is moving so tempestuously, and psychologies and mental concepts are changing with such rapidity that it is difficult to keep one's equilibrium. But that is precisely what we must do. And if the times are demanding that humanity as a whole take another step forward and be above and beyond what we have ever been, why should you and I exempt ourselves? No one of us is separate and apart from the karma of the race. We are part and parcel of the struggling human life-wave, and as we weather our own personality storms and meet with courage our individual heartaches and trials, so will we affect for good the thought climate of the world.

The paradox is that the very impact of global tensions is providing us with the exact stage setting essential to progress — the opportunity to develop a deeper quality of spiritual self-reliance. Hence there must be no intermediary between a man's will to grow and the god-spark within. No priest, no friend, no ideal even, however noble, must come between us and our inner divinity, for anything we cling to selfishly will block off the natural guidance from within. All we can do is to try to live to the full capacity of our understanding those universal spiritual principles which have stood the test of time, but we dare not tell another how to apply that garnered wisdom to his own life. For who are we to say that our concept of what is good and unselfish is right for anyone else? He alone must judge that. This is why growth is primarily an individual affair — an everliving progression of the soul as it moves from the less to the greater, from the self-centered to the selfless, from the darkness to the light.

No one of us may look backwards or sideways or in any direction other than forwards. If we allow our attention and our interest to be deflected, even for the briefest interval, from the direct path that our immortal self has indicated for us — which amounts in simple terms to adhering to that which we inwardly sense to be honest and true and for the benefit of all rather than only for ourselves — we run the risk of having our ideals, our devotion, even our love for the highest we would serve, turn to salt. As Jesus expressed it to his disciples: "Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it."

The present confusion of ideals has brought us to a dangerous pass — and I am not referring to the perils from missiles and rockets, satellites or bombs. Those are symptoms, and alarming ones in the hands of the willfully destructive; but they are symptoms only and do not constitute Man. Should the much-feared destruction of civilization eventuate — which I very much doubt will occur — we will have to rely on the simple yet all-inclusive truth that you may destroy the body but you cannot kill life. Man will survive; he will face and surmount every cataclysm that may be in store, whether by flood, fire, outer space — or himself!

Nations and races, as such, have time and again passed out of existence, but the egos that once inhabited them incarnate anew, in other lands and in other racial strains. If we can grasp that larger vision as far as is humanly possible, this will not remove the dangers, but it will help us to meet whatever comes with fortitude.

So let us take courage and join hands with those clear-sighted and strong individuals in every country who are quietly working to keep the wheels of progress moving forward.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition