It is impossible to gauge the significance of the present time or to realize what is in store for humanity during the next hundred years, merely from our own experience and from recorded history. For this is no ordinary time. It is not simply the culminating point of the past hundred years, but of thousands of years; the night of centuries has passed, and with the new dawn comes the return of memories and powers and possibilities of an age long past.
The soul of man still cries out, the darkness is still so close about him that he knows not the dawn is so near. But those who have climbed to the hilltops have seen the glow in the eastern sky and the rays of golden light in the heavens; and with the suddenness of the break of day in the tropics, in the twinkling of an eye, the light will come, the scales fall from our eyes, and we shall see — not in the uncertain gloom of night, but in the glorious sunlight.
As the light of day scatters the shadows and the powers of darkness, so will the effulgence of the new cycle break through the dark places of ignorance, prejudice and unbrotherliness in the age now so swiftly passing. The great heroes of old will once more return to earth, the great musicians, painters, poets, wise statesmen, lovers of the race, will again take up their loving task, and the earth shall blossom as a garden. The ancient wisdom taught in the sacred Mysteries will be revived; the earth, the air, the ether, all nature, will reveal their secrets to those who have prepared themselves through purification and by service to humanity.
Such is the outlook into the future. To measure it, go back to the glory of ancient Egypt and to the yet older civilization and vaster achievements of ancient America. Such a future awaits us and our children and, if we are faithful, shall be ours in the new time when, after a brief night of death, we return to take up our work again upon earth.
Our children are pleading with us in the silence for a higher manifestation of soul-life. Let us approach them in a new way — not merely as "the sweetest little things on earth, and all mine" — but as sacred charges entrusted to our care. And along this line let us refashion all our thoughts and acts. We must not merely play a part; we must be that part.
Are even the best home environments all that they should be? Do we not well know that nearly always there exist some conditions in the home that are adverse to the child's best interests? Children are imitators and carry a lasting impression of the knowledge gained, and the habits acquired, through home environment and example. It is idle for parents to attempt to teach their children self-control until they themselves have become examples of patience, firmness, poise and forbearance, until in their daily lives they are accentuating the virtues they preach to their children.
Children are often wiser than we know, often more observant than their elders. They are keenly receptive and responsive to what they hear, see and feel, either of good or evil. Intensely sensitive in their childish natures, they are much more affected by the mental atmosphere in which they live than is generally recognized. They suffer beyond description from discord and unhappiness in the home. They miss the inspiration which their hearts crave and which would come from happy and harmonious surroundings. Many a boy and girl have gone the wrong way, unconscious of the results which would follow, because deprived of that tender, soul-nurturing care that belonged to them by right and which their parents should have given.
Our children may be the saviors of the world. Believing in reincarnation as I do, I know that they have returned to us with the sorrows of the ages written upon their hearts. Watch little children in their quiet moments; look into their innocent, wonderful eyes, and tell me if you cannot find more truth therein than in all the sermons you ever heard. And this is why I declare that just so far as we limit their knowledge of higher things, just so far as we hem them in mentally by dogmatic teaching, we are committing crimes.
Cultivate a sense of spiritual honor in the child. Keep its mind filled with little duties, for idleness destroys soul-life.
The secret of happy childhood is not self-indulgence, however tempered and refined, but happy, wholesome, rational self-control.
Self-control! It can be taught to the babe in the cradle. It can be ingrained into character even before birth by the mother's own picture, kept constantly before her, of the ideal life; with her aspiration and her questionings all along the way: Who am l? Why am I here? What is my higher duty? Why must I strive for self-control?
Let the mother question thus and immediately there follows introspection: she begins to put her mental house in order. She goes back to her childhood in thought, perhaps, and comes to realize wherein lack of self-control has been the undoing of her nature, here and there and in one or another degree. The superb processes of self-analysis and introspection, inspired by pure motive and love for the child coming to her, must naturally bring that mother to a new state of consciousness. She has lighted her torch from the fires of divine knowledge; she has entered a new and a spiritual path, and you cannot hold her back. She has found the secret of new life.
And while she is so receptive — as she is at such a time, when the mysterious processes of the divine law are shaping the life that is to be, when the over-shadowing soul of her child is even then seeking recognition — she finds herself another woman. She has become transfigured, transformed. And her child will not be fettered with her weaknesses, nor even with its own, for the mother has planted in its very being the secret of self-control. She has planted in the little mind, even before it has felt the sunshine, an insight and a power that will stay. Realizing her responsibility, and finding in a new way the power that is born of forbearance and of trust, she fashions for that little child a new house to live in, for she holds it in the atmosphere of the soul.
If we are to keep our children unspoiled and with simple and wholesome tastes, we must cultivate in them great refinement, love of order and cleanliness, and the spirit of obedience. Avoid repressing the child. Teach it that obedience is a loving expression of its better nature — not something blindly imposed upon it by force.
Certain hours of the day or evening should be kept regularly by parents in which to meet with their children, quite apart from other attractions, entertainments or duties. Parents should endeavor to create a spirit of true cooperation and mutual trust, that these hours may be times of mutual benefit. The real heart- nature of the child may thus be brought out at an early age.
Not until parents understand the duality of man's nature and his power to control any tendency to surrender to temptation, are they competent to establish rules of conduct for their children.
The secret of true education? It lies in the heart-life of the child.
Every essential moral lesson which can be taught to adults can be taught also to children; and surely it is better that the little ones should learn, in the love and sanctity of the home, the lessons which the world has a rougher method of imparting at an age when mental habits have become confirmed.
To teach the little children their divine nature, to impress this fact upon them, is to lay the cornerstone of a healthy, happy manhood and womanhood.
We must remember that early childhood opportunities are precious; that the character is more susceptible to the influence of thoughts and actions than in mature life; that the child's growth and happiness depend upon its yesterdays — its babyhood beginnings — and that the present must be used in rational and wise preparation for its tomorrows.
You may organize systems of thought, or found societies and associations for the betterment of humanity; but these can do little permanent good because there is lacking a universal system of education for the youth.
The world is tired, humanity is tired, of the merely intellectual life of the age. It is crying out for some clear manifestation of truth, some glowing, compassionate expression of the heart-life.
Enlightened education is not so much a something which is imparted. It is a liberation from the powers of the lower forces of the nature, which hinder and check a growth which ought to be unchecked and spontaneous.
We have been trained so long on lines of false education that our very blood is teeming with its poison. It is in the very atmosphere of our breathing life. It is all around us, and our brain-minds are so permeated with the false teachings of the age that we imagine it difficult to take up our simple possibilities, grand as they are, and to feel that we actually can have the spiritual knowledge that shall reveal all things — all the secrets of life.
True education is, in reality, a permission to the child to grow without the chains of self-love, which will ever remain outside of its nature if the foundations of education be laid aright. Are there not many parents who even admire in their children the faults which may, as adults, bring them within reach of the law — encouraging in them the self-will and the vanity which must surely mar their lives?
The world has not yet realized how much of truth children already know, and how much of that truth we destroy by our mistakes. There are few children who do not know that nature is a great teacher, until we, by our materialism, and often by our ridicule, drive the knowledge from their minds.
Let the lives of the little ones be molded so that they will be better citizens than you or I. Let us cultivate a higher spirit of patriotism, a deeper spirituality, a greater spirit of brotherly love.
Children should be taught to regard themselves as integral and responsible parts of the nation to which they belong. They should be taught to aspire to the position of national benefactors, teachers and helpers, and so to become exponents of the truest and wisest patriotism.
In the nurseries and schools of the world the principle of selfishness seems often to be exalted into a virtue. "Preparation for life" seems all too often to consist in the cultivation of those aspects of the nature which have already done so much to create the misery which we see. The habit of self-interest, the "duty" of competition, are taught from the earliest and most impressionable days by many who would be the last to work consciously and willfully to impede the child's real growth. And children so taught, being left in ignorance of their own nature, its complexities and its intricacies, are unable to discriminate between the higher self and the lower, between the true and the false in life.
When children are treated in accordance with the facts and the needs of life, the love which is given them is that truest affection which thinks ever of their welfare, without regard to the selfish pleasure which they can render in return. To love a child truly is to help it to develop its highest faculties, which grow by and through, a willing service to others.
Our so-called spiritual education is too often confined to a single hour on one day in the week — a single hour once in seven days! Yet how few, even among the best and wisest of parents, feel it an obligation to separate themselves from other cares to train the spiritual will and direct the abounding energies of their children — so tied down are they by false standards. Yet when these children grow to manhood or womanhood we are horrified to see, if not in our immediate family then in the community, the inebriate, the suicide, the criminal, the spiritual failure.
This is not a pleasant picture, but we should not shrink from it if we can learn a useful lesson, and through the knowledge thus gained help the coming generations. I say this in no spirit of censure, believe me, for these mistakes are due in the main to the ignorance of the age, to false ideals in education, and to the lower psychology upon which we have been feeding the mind of man for centuries.
I realized many years ago that something was vitally wrong with all our scheme of things — with our conventions, our reformatory efforts, our charities. In the very shadow of the churches I saw vice and suffering and want. Worse still, everywhere I saw people moving along the even tenor of their ways, blissfully oblivious or frankly indifferent.
Never could I reconcile myself to such a bland acceptance of things. I must at least try to ameliorate conditions. I saw hardship as the result of vice, and vice as the outcome of hardship. I realized that all of our systems of helpfulness were totally backhanded. We dealt then, as most people deal now, with effects rather than with causes. After the damage is done, we attempt to repair.
What I wanted to do was to prevent — to prevent the damage being done. The world was already fairly well equipped with havens for the beaten and the fallen. I wanted to evolve an institution that would take humanity in hand before it was worsted in the struggle of life.
The truest and grandest thing of all as regards education is to attract the mind of the child to the fact that the immortal self is ever seeking to bring the whole being into a state of perfection. The real secret is rather to evolve the child's character than to overtax the child's mind; it is to bring out rather than to bring to the faculties of the child. The grander part is from within.
To do this no part can be neglected, and the physical nature must share to the full in the care and attention which are required. Neither can the most assiduous training of the intellect be passed over; it must be made subservient, however, to the forces of the heart. The intellect must be the servant, not the master, if order and equilibrium are to be attained. Hence, the aim and object of true education is the perfect balance of all the faculties — physical, mental and spiritual — in a word, CHARACTER.
Seeing that the children of today will be the men and women of the future, the great importance of this work surely cannot be overestimated. Only by wise teaching, by training in self-reliance, self-discipline, concentration, and a recognition of the power of silence, can the lower qualities of the nature be overcome and the higher developed. One of the great objectives must be to bring home to their minds the old, old teaching that they are immortal souls, not divorced from beneficent nature, but in deed and truth a part of it.
Music is one of the cornerstones of true education. The world has not yet awakened to its value as a factor in refining and purifying the character, especially during the early and more plastic years of life.
Man is essentially a creator, and he can be considered in no other way. Theosophy, therefore, as the science of the immortal man, is creative on the highest lines. It brings the soul into action, ennobles the nature, frees the mind and inspires, so that naturally it finds expression, directly and indirectly, in both art and music.
There is an immense correspondence between music on the one hand, and thought and aspiration on the other, and only that deserves the name of music to which the noblest and purest aspirations are responsive.
One who really desires to understand the soul of things is ever careful in the selection of music, ever heedful as to what notes are sounded in the hearts of men, lest some great harm be done instead of good.
There is a science of consciousness, and into that science music can enter more largely than is usually supposed. A knowledge of the laws of life can be neither profound nor wide which thus neglects one of the most effective of all forces.
Let us bring our children, therefore, close to the refining influences of the best in art and music. In doing so, however, let us realize that the power of beautiful expression in these things is not an affair of the intellect alone, or of custom or convention. Nor can it be learned from books. It comes from the awakening of the inner powers of the soul, those qualities of the nature which are in sympathy with whatever is high and pure.
Music is the song of the soul, and well we know that it has not yet fulfilled its function. Had I the millions that are yearly given out in charity, my first work after I had fed the hungry and clothed the naked, would be to give such help to the families of the poor as would lead to the establishment of a musical life in even the humblest household. For when the soul is stirred by music, when we feel ourselves within reach of the higher ideals of life, then we find the light. Do you not know how deeply we can be moved even by the old church hymns, in spite of the old-fashioned theology that pervades them?
The world has a wrong conception of the ideal in music, and not until it has rectified this can it perceive that true harmony can never proceed from one who has not that harmony within himself.
Ideally, music should be a part of the daily life, not merely as an exercise which occupies its stated times and seasons, but as a principle which animates all the activities. The soul-power which is called forth by a harmony well delivered and well received does not die away with the conclusion of the piece. It has elicited a response from within the nature, the whole being has been keyed to a higher pitch of activity, and even the smallest of the daily duties, those which are usually called menial, will be performed in a different way.
As is the case with music, art is a principle which should pervade all life and activity, following faithfully upon the lines of the science of the soul. Under this science, the arts become the true expression of soul-ideals, and no longer adventitious or capricious additions to our environment, but integral parts of that to which they belong. They become in themselves the expression of the law of evolution, and the demonstration of the reality of that law.
Music! What wonderful power lies in it to swing us out into the universal life! To realize its power is to realize that when self is forgotten, when personalities disappear, we are free — out in the open air of thought and love and the higher purposes. And yet even the best that we have today is but a materialistic expression in comparison with what it will be. Everything in music is so imperfect as yet: we are but touching the fringe of the real harmony.
If we could hold ourselves in the attitude of mind that is created when true music touches us; if we could bind and fasten ourselves to the larger views it opens out and broaden our comprehension of what life really means, we could tear down the veil that divides the seen from the unseen, the seeming from the real, we could look at life as it really is, at ourselves as we really are.
I have always believed that music should be a power among the masses; that the god of music should rule every household, and that the little children, indeed the whole family, should give as much attention to music as to the other duties in life. If that were only the case, what a beautiful world this would be! Were we only taught the simple, fundamental laws of music, we could throw ourselves upon our soul-resources when under the shadow of the sorrows and trials of life, and sing ourselves once more into harmony and usefulness, into the light and joy of life.
The drama, like music, is regarded by the world as one of the relaxations of life because it is supposed to deal with unrealities. True drama points away from unrealities to the real life of the soul. As such the drama should lead and guide the public taste, providing it with ideals towards which it can aspire. Nowhere are the advantages of this more strikingly illustrated than in the dramatic power which can be called forth wherever there is an absence of self-consciousness and of vanity.
Nowhere in the social life of the present is the need for reform more manifest than in the drama. In too many directions it has been made to serve the sensationalism of the day and to stimulate the vicious thought which it might be so powerful to suppress.
We are within sight of the time which will restore the drama to its rightful position as one of the great redemptive forces of the age.
Dramatic study is one of the most important factors in the right education of the child, for true drama is the soul's interpreter, the great creative exponent of the spiritual life.
It is the heart that the drama reaches with its message. That is the secret of its power to regenerate.
Life so needs beauty and laughter! My aim in presenting this drama (As You Like It) is in part to bring these back. I would have you mirthful with me in the golden world pictured in this play. Wholesome mirth is creative in itself. Shakespeare brought back to us the spirit of ancient beauty.
Man cannot be preached into virtue nor forced into happiness. He must be led to love them through the heart-touch. Your higher drama is your real reformer.
The life which is inspired by hope is necessarily the life which is rich in achievement, and man does indeed possess to the fullest extent a dominion over nature, vast and unimaginable.
The inertia of custom and convention has been already broken, and the unrest of the world, at which so many look with distrust and apprehension, is but the movement of the ship with the incoming tide of a purer and better thought. Ideals have been thrown out into the world, and because they are spiritual ideals they have entered into the minds of men and have painted entrancing pictures of what the world would be if man were but a master of himself and it.
Those ideals will not die away until they have been realized, until they have given birth to other ideals which will illuminate forever the roadway of all future life, declaring the reality of a reign of peace on earth and of the god in man.