Why is there such turmoil everywhere? Why do we balance on the verge of self-destruction? Isn't there a purpose to life, a destiny for man? These are some of the questions goading and prodding all of us in this fast-changing world. We seem to be rudderless, without direction. But with greed and selfishness so often rampant, is there any wonder at the strife, the bewilderment? And if we are the creators of that destiny, are we not also partly responsible? Surely inner peace, compassion and harmony constitute the only realities; and this firm conviction — fired by a deep love for human beings — helps us to counter the current of humdrum existence, to search out answers to our questionings.
The first step in spiritual awakening is a realization of the despair and sorrow in the world. An acute sense of utter hopelessness and futility takes possession of the heart. At the same time there arises a cry, or need, for an antidote to relieve this unbearable pain. The very pain is an awakener. If accepted in the proper spirit it throws a light on the cause of it. The individual begins to realize that he has a definite, important role to play as a unit of mankind. It does matter whether he is optimistic or pessimistic, whether he is altruistic or selfish, whether he looks upon the dark or the light side of life. If he sincerely wishes to help his fellowmen he will take firm hold of himself and guide his thoughts and feelings into constructive channels.
Why does man make a hell on earth when he could just as well create a heaven? Is it not because he has forgotten that he is dual in nature; a self-conscious thinking entity, rooted in divinity, yet closely linked on the plane of desire to the animal functions of his being? Obviously, he has not as yet learned the rules which govern the mental plane, the field of cause and effect, action and reaction. Man reaps in experience exactly what he sows in thought. He cannot hurt another without hurting himself. All things contribute, and are related, to all things. The golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is not just a righteous, high-sounding platitude. It is a vital, practical power, that will have to be resuscitated and shot through with the real meaning of life. It is the kernel of ethics, right-living and the foundation of brotherly love. It applies not only to individuals, but to nations — an imperative rule of conduct, if our civilization is to survive.
The average individual is not in a position to change the course of nations, but he can improve himself. This means to know himself. "Man know thyself," an axiom of the old Mystery Schools, is familiar to everyone. To know oneself is to be aware that man is body, soul and spirit. By aspiring to the very highest part of his nature, the inner god, man starts to climb the spiritual ladder of life. He realizes that he is an infinitesimal part of a great whole, whose very existence is law and order, the highest ethics possible. Man is not only a growing, evolving entity, but he is a Universe in miniature. He mirrors the moving, whirling, living organism of solar systems and galaxies which are slowly, steadily marching through space. What greater visible example of harmony could there be than the interrelated movements of the planets, suns, solar systems, and galaxies?
Every push forwards or upwards in aspiration is met by a similar reaction from the lower or animal nature, the personal side of man. This personal nature is purely selfish. Its existence is based on vanity and pride, envy for what others possess, passion, ambition, and anger when these desires are not fulfilled. Thus, a veritable battlefield is established between the higher and lower aspects of man, but it is the stress and strain of the storm which develops the mighty oak.
The man who undertakes the task of thinking for himself assumes a Herculean role. He is being constantly influenced by the press and the radio; by the fears and weaknesses of his friends or dominated by their strength. Almost every thought that passes through his mind is colored, blurred, or distorted by prejudices, either personal, national or racial. Such prejudices, as well as tempestuous emotions, uncontrolled thinking, judging, comparing, competitive striving are all barriers to clear thinking. The mind must be cleared of this debris for:
Eternal life's pure waters, clear and crystal, with the monsoon tempest's muddy torrents cannot mingle. — The Voice of the Silence
This is the negative side of the picture which must be combatted and overcome. The positive picture reveals beauty and inspiration, ever beckoning man to raise himself to greater heights of achievement. Those sages, seers, saints and Christs who have gone ahead have left the marks of their attainment:
On the mental steps of a million men Buddha passed through the Gates of Gold; and because a great crowd pressed about the threshold he was able to leave behind him words which prove that those Gates will open. — Through the Gates of Gold
When the mind and heart are fairly under control, he who aspires for truth is confronted with a paradoxical world. He must be filled with a divine yearning, yet he must have a contented mind; he must be happy, yet have a heart vibrant and sympathetic to the woes of the world; he must overcome sensitiveness, yet take care not to harden his soul; he must be controlled, yet have perfect freedom of action. He must "look alike on pain and pleasure, gain and loss, victory and defeat." Impersonality, then, is the only lever which will lift him out of this maze of paradoxes, and perseverance alone will accomplish the required result. Thus, the path ahead becomes strait and narrow, and demands the equilibrium of a tight-rope walker.
Spiritual awakening is an electrifying or vitalizing of man's inner nature, urging it on to greater and nobler vistas of thought, feeling and action. There is an old saying: "Whatsoever an entity longs for, that very thing the entity will become." This is heartening to know, but at the same time it is a warning to strive only for the best, the noblest in our natures. It takes great labor, patience and courage, consciously to prepare the proper vehicle or instrument capable of receiving truth.
Spirituality is a vital energy that is stepped down through spiritual geniuses from what might be called the Father in Heaven: an energy that comes as a warm ray of love which touches the heart of man. To him who will grasp it, it becomes a plank of salvation to which he must hang, if he would make it a part of his life. Its power is expansive, the growth of which will make of man a god. Yet he who would ally himself with this great power of love must "live the life to know the doctrine." No exceptions are made for weakness of character, no favors granted. The aspirant must self-consciously become at one with those great souls who are working impersonally for the benefit of mankind, peace on earth, good will toward men.
"There is no religion higher than Truth" is a motto that is ageless, being the core of all great religions and philosophies, for Truth exists in the heart of every sincere aspirant, and merely awaits recognition through his own spiritual effort.
(From Sunrise magazine, January 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)