Thinking Out Loud

Marilinda Taylor Johnson

We are, all of us, when you stop to think about it, in rather an odd sort of a situation. Here we are spinning around on a globe in space. And about this space we know practically nothing. We have in various ways been attempting to discover a little more about this globe and how it spins. But as to where we might have come from and where we might be going we have ascertained practically nothing. Obviously we must have come from somewhere at sometime and are consequently going somewhere in some manner. But how? And where? Most of us are content not to think much about this. And perhaps for a great many of us this is the best procedure after all. But what about those of us who can't help wondering? And there are, I believe, a great many who do this.

The first thing that came to me when I started thinking along this line was the fact that in nature nothing moves suddenly or in jerks. It moves within great cycles of time. So then, wherever we might have come from and wherever we may be going, we are probably not going suddenly or jerkily. We are probably not going to be suddenly shifted from one plane or world to another.

I stopped and looked around me. Is man as he now appears perhaps the result of a long, long chain of development leading slowly and carefully to what he has now become? There are all sorts and forms of life that we cannot see, that we can only guess at. How about it? Have we come, you and I and the others, slowly through phase after phase to what we now are? And if so, have we now reached the heights? Have we come now to the end?

And when I reached this point in my thinking I gazed upward and outward into the distances of space, and into all the vastness of things that exist of which we, as men, know little or nothing. And it seemed to me logical to suppose that man, as he now appears, is only another link in this great moving onward and forward. All about us we can see men who are developing more and more; moving on. Is it not reasonable to suppose that the great chain of evolving that disappears behind us into the mists, also goes onward before us into where we cannot at the moment see?

And then my thoughts turned in a search to know what lies just a little way ahead. What is man to become in his next stage of development? Perhaps already upon this earth there have appeared forerunners of what man is to become. Have there not been men that were a little more than men? What of Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama the Buddha, and the great Chinese sage, Lao Tse? And there have been many more of these who were in varying degrees beyond what we now are. And what did these great ones have to say? I began reading and found that they all taught the same fundamental truths, yet they lived in different times, taught in different phraseology, and to our small means of knowing, knew each other not. And it struck me as rather remarkable that behind the outward forms and the confusions wrought by the minds of men as they sought to change and modify and alter, the same basic doctrines lived.

And one of these basic teachings is that man, a spark of divinity, is a pilgrim journeying through eternity. That man is ever growing and developing. The heart and core of the teachings of Gautama the Buddha was contained in his teaching that: "The path consists of a continuous changing to betterment of the factors of our consciousness." Jesus of Nazareth phrased it, "I am the way and the truth and the life," and "Greater works than these shall you do also." Lao Tse taught of this in the Tao-Teh-Ching. Tao meaning the Way or the Path; and also meaning the wayfarer or he who travels the Path.

There are those ahead of us upon this pathway as there are those behind us. Ever and again they come, these Seers and Sages, who all point out that man himself is the pathway. Said Jesus of Nazareth, "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo, there! For behold the Kingdom of God is within you." And Gautama the Buddha set it forth in his basic principles and instructions as found in the Noble Eight-fold Path. Again, the great Chinese seer, Lao Tse admonished, "Be what is within you. Do what that which is within you tells you to do."

It is always the same. The words of Jesus, the words of Buddha, the words of Lao Tse — the Vedas, the Upanishads — the words of Plato. Always, wherever you seek the fundamental spring of thought, it is the same.

And now out upon the frontiers, far into the realms of what we call science, blazing a pathway into the future, these same truths are beginning to echo faintly but surely. You can hear them in the words of the great modern thinkers. You can read them in your daily papers. Faint and groping yet, almost lost at times, but always reaching out, going forward.

(From Sunrise magazine, July 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)

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