The confusion and the unrest of the human race at the present time, to which are added the pain, the despair, the doubt, and the vice, suggest the question: Are we doing anything to lessen them? In spite of our remedial systems, we have not yet reached a point of understanding how we can begin to analyze the causes of the failures in human life and to work to reconstruct the human family.
No man has his freedom until he has found the secret of self-control, self-discipline, self-government, which are, as we know, the prime factors in the building of character. Not until he has gained that certain knowledge which comes through the power of introspection, self-control, and self-denial, can he draw the line intelligently and consciously between the animal part of his nature and the spiritual. Without this knowledge, man must still be a mystery to himself; he must be a sad disappointment to himself; he must find the world all awry, having so little faith in himself that naturally he has little faith in his fellowmen, and thus he loses courage.
To find an anchorage in human life and to have the knowledge that comes from the two ideas of self-government and self-discipline, is to have the key to the situation — something priceless, which no money can buy. When man has attained this knowledge, he has taken the first step towards mastering his own destiny; for it is self-mastery that brings man to the knowledge of his Higher Self — that Self that lives on and is immortal. It is self-discipline that acquaints him with the mysteries of his own being and forces him to introspection. Thus we endeavor to get at the causes of the good and evil in our own natures, and grow in courage.
If man would seek self-control, he must first recognize his own Divinity. There are many thoughts that come up in connection with these ideas, which, if we could make them as contagious in the world as are crime, vice, the follies and idiosyncrasies of life, would enable us to feel the great pulsating heart-life of the world; we should find ourselves using the exterior life as a means of gaining experience, but at the same time realizing its impermanence in comparison with our glorious and grand ideals, and with the power of self-control and self-mastery.
Thus would open a new path for all, just as it does for the inventor who, under the urge and yet unacquainted with the very plan that he is trying to carry out, pushes on with trust — half conscious of that something in his nature, deep down in his being, that will help him. He trusts in this consciousness — not to this man or that; he makes no appeal to anyone, but silently advances in his study and analysis, working out intricate problems on the material plane until he reaches success.
If man can accomplish on the material plane such wonderful evolutions of practical things for the world as we see all about us, if he can bring to the recognition of people such masterly secrets of material life, does it not stand to reason that behind all this power, deeper still in the recesses of his own nature, there are secrets that can be evolved and brought out, not only for the perfection of his own life, for the development of his own soul, but for the spiritual advancement of all humanity?
If we can take these ideas and simply try to apply them to our smallest efforts, we shall find in a short time that all that is unpleasant in life, even that which sometimes seems unjust and unfair, will present more optimistic aspects, from which we can work intelligently. The things that are so discouraging at present that they seem to be carrying all humanity along the path of retrogression, will take on another appearance; because, as I have said, when once man is sure of his Divinity, once sure of that deeper consciousness which is the permanent and higher part of his nature, once sure that he is part of the great heart of the world, he will know that as he works constantly, conscientiously, and unselfishly in the smallest duty, he is working with the Higher Law and has the companionship and help of the Higher Law.
Two things, we know, cannot occupy the same place at the same time. The mind of man today is burdened with the transient things of life. He has accumulated so many non-essential ideas that, though he may have a cultured mind, yet he is weighed down with fear, with doubt, with selfishness, so that the spiritual help, the essentials, can have no place in his consciousness.
If we can have the courage to think towards truth in a spirit of receptivity, we shall find that the old psychology will die out of itself, and in the course of time there will come enlightenment. For the soul of man is spiritual; the soul has the power to enlighten the mind and bring home to it a knowledge that neither books nor preachers can give. It is the power of making clear to man his own possibilities. And when he reaches this point, he realizes that he is the maker of his own destiny; he becomes the interpreter of his own life and will solve some of the sublime mysteries of life.
If we go along day by day playing hide-and-seek with our own natures, we retrograde. But if we take spiritual ideals and implant them in our minds and natures, and hold to them from day to day affectionately, in the course of time this influence becomes a power through habit; our ideals become more and more potent; they ingrain themselves into one's very being, and ultimately work with one's conscience. And surely the awakening of the conscience is the needed force today throughout the world.
If we are to bring any remedy to the world's unrest, we must begin with ourselves. It takes only a few to start a mob in the beginning. It takes only a few to start a war. Sometimes it takes only two people to bring about the most cruel war of the ages. And so it is, on the other hand, in regard to the grander things, the permanent things. To begin to work on the line of unselfish effort and to help humanity, there is needed but a nucleus of people who come together under the psychological influence of the potency of man's divine nature, and then there is a superb basis for splendid results. We can never reach the truth, never find the light within our own souls, or the power to control, to discipline ourselves, the power to serve, to love, or the power to become, until we have reached the one point of the realization of our Divinity. This is the key to all the other problems of life.
(From Sunrise magazine, September 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)