[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
Time is a delusion. All is the eternal now. But in a world in which all is delusion, of which time is a controlling element, there is a proper time for all things. We cannot mount the camel that has passed us, nor the camel that has not yet come.
— Talbot Mundy: Om: The Secret of Ahbor Valley
Nowhere is the sense of timing more important than in the developing of that spiritual perfection through alignment with the Inner Self which is the ultimate goal of, not alone the Theosophical student, but of the devotees of each of the great systems of Enlightenment that have been taught man throughout the ages, be it Yoga, Mysticism, Occultism, Taoism, Zen or the Noble Eightfold Path of the Lord Buddha. Each stresses the need for continuous striving on the part of the neophyte, the slow sure progress through self-effort that leads onwards step by step at the appropriate time. The next step cannot be undertaken until the now-step is accomplished. The true motive for self-development is the attainment of wisdom whereby we may serve all mankind. To be of service one must be wise, and conversely, to be wise one must carry knowledge into balanced action. Balanced action is timing. It is so in music, in art in dancing, athletics — and the attainment of Spiritual Illumination
"Prepare thyself, for thou wilt have to travel on alone. The Teacher can but point the way" is the advice and warning given in The Voice of the Silence. How often we feel that the preparation is overlong. Could we but, by some miraculous circumstance, be accepted as a disciple of a Master, all unprepared as we may be, would that not in itself be of more benefit to mankind and ourselves than all the years spent in study, in training the mind, in service to enlarge the heart and in discipline in the control of body, mind and heart? Unwisely we would leap from kindergarten to University and fail in the attempt. It is fortunate that there are certain laws provided to protect the over impetuous from spiritual disaster. Before any teaching can reach fulfillment there is need for self-discipline, for what is a disciple if not one who is prepared to accept discipline?
Individual training becomes more and more an apparent necessity, a motif of our present age. Large groups of persons all over the world talk of peace, think of peace, organize for peace and yet as individuals they are unable, or unwilling, to keep peaceful relations with their own groups, their neighbors or their families. It is sheer stupidity to believe that any organization or nation can have more integrity than is within the character capacity of the individuals composing that group or nation. It is perhaps a little disconcerting to be forced to realize that, with lofty humanitarian ideals for saving humanity through the gentle compassionate teachings of the Enlightened Ones, we might begin our Way of Peace by forgiving the trespasses of the neighbor who appropriated our last year's tulip bulbs. Still we only truly accept a teaching when our actions prove we believe it to be true.
If we assume a universe run by Law, wherein we may depend upon night following day, the seasons running through orderly cycles, planting preceding its harvest, all within their humanly deductible time element, it is reasonable to assume that nothing happens by chance, that all exists according to that Law. That we should be at this time expressing ourselves in physical bodies in a physical world indicates the pattern for development in our age. To proceed through life with one's heart and mind set on the far horizon of Aspiration is, all too often, to overlook the small plain duties of physical life. Aspiration is a splendid necessity, but it must be approached and perfected through balance on all planes. No part of the self reaches perfection until such time as the whole nature has assimilated the experiences that produce the perfected.
The Master K. H. wrote, in answer no doubt to Mr. Sinnett's complaints against time-consuming trivialities: "Does it seem a small thing to you that the past year has been spent only in your "family duties'? Nay, but what better cause for reward, what better discipline than the daily and hourly performance of duty? . . . The man or woman who is placed by Karma in the midst of small plain duties and sacrifices of loving kindness, will through these faithfully fulfilled rise to the larger measure of Duty, Sacrifice and Charity to all Humanity. What better path toward enlightenment are you striving after than the daily conquest of self . . . the bearing of ill fortune with that serene fortitude that turns it to spiritual advantage."
It is the inspiration and the joy of all true students of the Ancient Wisdom to pursue their studies. Many absorbing and fascinating subjects are unfolded before our eager minds. Sometimes it seems as if they were isolated bits of learning until later we realize that they fit together like pieces of a picture puzzle into one grand whole, a tableau of vast antiquity and importance. Let us continue to be inspired and uplifted by the words and writings of the Great Teachers but, in all humility, may we ever remember that the acquisition of knowledge having no relation whatever to every day living, is not fulfilling the purpose for which the teaching was given — Enlightenment through the conquest of self. To know Truth one must be the living expression of Truth, for knowledge is a neutral energy becoming a force for good or evil, bitterness or joy, hate or love, according to the application of that knowledge to thought and action.
If then we yearn to go forward — and who doesn't? — it is well that we remember we have always the means at hand, here and now. The nerve-trying interruptions, the small daily claims on patience and sympathy, the sacrifice of the things we want to do to the things that must be done, as well as the great bereavements and tragedies of life, are all part of a system of training and discipline timed by the Law of Necessity. Nothing is too trivial to be used and no burden is too heavy to be carried if viewed impersonally as the just working out of Karmic Law and as an opportunity to learn and grow. In a universe that is without accident man can grow only through his own self-directed intention to enlarge his capacity through self-effort. Inspired he is by his teachers, but they, by their own admission, "but point the way."
The building of character through daily living, learning to be patient, self-sacrificing, gentle, humble and truthful in small things, can be greatly aided if the tranquillity of the meditation hour can be carried over as a constant undercurrent to the round of activities. We have been told that it is on the serene, unruffled waters of the mind that spirit is reflected; that only the mirror kept free of dust gives back the picture of reality. One can strengthen serenity by clinging to it consciously until such time as it becomes a habit formed by constant application in action. There is a sound psychological basis for the teaching. It produces the least possible strain on the nervous system. How often one becomes exhausted from the emotional stress of contemplating the unwanted duties, the job one hates to do. The energy used on working through the feeling of repulsion, shilly-shallying with the idea, putting off, trying to avoid, leaves one fairly worn out. If a thing is to be done, concentrate on it, do it thoroughly, and pass on, and in so doing build the disciplined self-control that alone can become the firm foundation upon which future spiritual instruction may be erected with any degree of permanent security.
To grow toward spiritual perfection to the end that all may become a perfected unity, is, actually, our whole mission in life. No other answer to the question "Why are we here?" has ever been found satisfactory. Growth is a slow evolutionary process attained through self-effort. Each experience in life takes place as a result of past action in this or former lives to become the future seed of progress. No longer may any thinking person anticipate some Divine outside agent to lean down from Heaven and produce a miracle of redemption. To meet the test of living, to learn and improve through experience, to learn to use the knowledge we have to deal wisely with human affairs, these are the tools we create for ourselves. Future instruments of greater power and precision justly depend upon how we employ those we have here and now.
The effect of timing on the affairs of man is all important. To rush at life is to get off balance. To dawdle aimlessly along without purpose or direction is to delay orderly progression. Indeed there is nothing in human experience that leads us to believe we can "mount the camel that has passed us, or the camel that has not yet come."