Growing Pains

Jean Van Mater

Every sincere student of philosophy at one time or another in his searchings wants to determine whether it will answer everyday problems, large and small, and at the same time help him become better than he is. Many give up almost before they start, believing that the living expression of it calls for more than they are able to give — study, to develop the mind; determination, to carry through inevitable back-slidings; self-discipline, to master themselves.

These are necessary; but they have forgotten that it is not all an uphill climb and that being a completely natural thing, the growth of character cannot be developed by means of any calculated set of measures. It is the simple, universal ethics we all know so well, such as the Golden Rule, that round out and expand a man's nature sooner and more effectively than all the rigid mental gymnastics the brain of man might think of. There is a deep peace and joy in such a growth, the very real happiness that comes to those who live in harmony with the best part of themselves. With the gradual unfoldment of character will come also a strengthening, both inwardly and outwardly, without any necessity for unnatural forcing of growth. Is not self-directed development with its endless spiralings toward greater heights of awareness the purpose of being and therefore the concern of everyone? There is a wide diversity among the members of the human family as their lives unfold, although some may share a common background, for each person through the events that present themselves to him and the manner in which he meets them, is fulfilling a destiny that is his own. From the experiences garnered, those qualities necessary for each to learn in order to express more sleeping potentialities will be made manifest. In this can be found the reason that so often in the face of adversity the weak show unexpected strength. The strength was always there, but it required the challenge of great difficulty to bring it to light.

Only individual experience and the challenges met and won in daily life can make a philosophy a living reality and bring forth the latent possibilities within man's nature. The same "flame of godhood" lies in all, and while in some it may burn more brightly than in others, this source of strength is the common property of every man and forms the link unifying the human race. Like a rough diamond, one's expanding character requires a skillful hand that can ruthlessly chip away the outer veils to reveal its hidden beauty, and it is only with practice that man matures beyond his growing pains.

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

Songs before Sunrise

Unto each man his handiwork, unto each his crown
The just Fate gives;
Whoso takes the world's life on him and his own lays down,
He, dying so, lives.
Whoso bears the whole heaviness of the wronged world's weight,
And puts it by,
It is well with him suffering, though he face man's fate;
How should he die?
Seeing Death has no part in him any more, no power
Upon his head;
He has bought his eternity with a little hour
And is not dead.
For an hour, if ye look for him, he is no more found
For an hour's space;
Then ye lift up your eyes to him and behold him crowned,
A deathless face.
— Swinburne

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