"We are a disappointed people," a prominent physician of Europe said recently. "During and after the occupation, we sought in the churches and elsewhere for the answer to the awful suffering we had endured. Why had it come to us? What was the purpose of it all? We didn't find the answers, but somehow we kept our faith, because you simply cannot kill out a belief in the immortal spirit. Nevertheless, there were times when I was nearly overpowered by the stream of tragedy that passed daily through my consulting rooms."
That interview has lingered, for the impact of his words seared deep. Here is a man of profound sympathy, of brilliant and searching intellect, a man whose travail had taken him literally through the valleys of the shadow of death, today helping thousands to renewed courage, yet saying of himself and his countrymen that they are a "disappointed people" because they have not found a philosophy sound enough to satisfy their spiritual need.
If truth and the way thereto may be found, why should there be such obstacles to its attainment? Why this miasma of ignorance fogging the path ahead? Certainly literalism of dogma, and a static faith in church, temple or synagog, have not met the need.
Where is the "seed of the kingdom," the mustard seed, that least of all seeds that when sown was to prove the greatest? Surely the Sower who went forth to sow cast good seed, fertile seed, into the field of the earth. Why then in so brief a period of 2000 years have the tares of selfishness, ambition, and greed so thickened as practically to choke out the life of that seed?
For ages and ages, man has been far from spiritually alert. Composite of body, soul and spirit, he is subject not only to spiritual yearnings, but likewise feels the bondage of material desire. Which does not indicate that man is evil, or that he need despair because of his confusion. It simply brings into focus the field of battle in which the race as a whole has found itself ever since that day, millenniums ago, when it left the security of innocence.
What then is the full picture, the larger perspective, of man's struggle for light? For answer we must go back to the tradition that outdistances all the Sowers of past ages, a tradition reaching into the bosom of eternity, which tells of a Primeval Revelation of truth by gods, who feeling deep compassion "descended" into earthly bodies to help the human race, then in its childhood, to grow one day into spiritual maturity. This tradition is sacred in every race, in every clime and in every age. Some have named these gods Sons of Mind, others 'Elohim, while still others called them Descending Stars or Fallen Angels. Whatever their name, their goal was the same: to stir the embers of humanity into the flame of aspiration, so that from a sleeping godspark, unaware of knowledge, man might grow up finally into the full stature of an enlightened god.
The Garden of Eden story in another form: man leaves the blissful dream-world of his golden age to descend into the rugged path of individualism, whereby through bitter personal experience he might know the merit of good, and never again be merely a blind follower of spiritual law.
These Fallen Angels were both kindly and wise: they did not blend their essence with infant man to quicken the fire of self-consciousness, merely to leave him to the mercy of a too sudden knowledge. For ages, so the tradition goes, gods, demi-gods, heroes and greatly evolved men lived right with the infant races, patiently teaching them the ways of nature: the sowing and reaping of their fields, the laws of the sun and the moon and the tides, as well as of spiritual and intelligent behavior. In that age, millions of years ago, man was surely blessed, so close to him were his divine preceptors, and so painstaking were they to impress deep within his soul the essence of truth, and the inherent difference between right and wrong.
The wheel of destiny rolled on, and the time came when man determined to walk alone. Feeling the press of adolescent power, he cast aside his preceptors, and started unaided to tread the evolutionary path. Immature in wisdom, yet with the daring that breeds victory, man plunged into the fullness of experience, until at last, reaching the pit of material expression, he faced a crisis: which way to choose? Further into matter? Hardly, for that would lead to eventual absorption in it — at least until another great cycle. Or, sensitive once again to the impress of his divine instructors, should he remember his destiny, and slowly if painfully ascend the ladder of evolution?
The struggle of countless ages began. But help was there. True to the ancestral pattern, for compassion is ever the fundamental habit of nature, those early preceptors, though banished by man, had not abandoned their child. Quietly, in the background, they had manned a sufficient force to establish on earth a central headquarters, where the truths of the universe could be studied and tabulated, and most important guarded for posterity so that periodic messengers could be sent forth into the world to sow once again the seed of truth. For millenniums these guardians of the race watched, guided, directed — not openly, for men, blinded now with power, were too self-centered to heed. But as the cycles unfolded, groups of men whose quality of aspiration had earned their guidance were trained, disciplined, matured. As the call was felt in the world at large, advance aides went forth periodically and established training-centers, schools of discipline, in which those yearning for truth might receive.
In nearly every land, legend has preserved knowledge of the existence of such schools of discipline. In Greece, they were called Mystery-Schools, graded in severity of discipline and in fullness of teaching from the least to the greatest. In the Lesser Mysteries, or the introductory stages, the disciples were impressed first and foremost with the fact that man was a god in very truth, and that his sojourn on earth was but a part of a long series of experiences for the soul in the larger schoolroom of the universe. He participated in rituals which portrayed in dramatic story the journey of the soul, first after death, and then on into the experience of a self-conscious communion with the god within. In the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis and Samothrace, which were reserved for the few whose development warranted the trial, the soul literally undertook the journey of death which he had learned about in the lesser school. If successful, then the enlightened soul experienced at least momentarily the full radiance of divinity shining upon it. This was of course the supreme fulfillment — the epiphany or 'showing forth' of the god within to the emancipated man.
Such an experience, naturally, was never the reward of the selfish. It could not be bought. However, it could be earned, but only after arduous and severe discipline, and an utter purification of aspiration, so that at the moment of revelation nothing of matter would bind the soul.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, that well-loved poem of ancient India, the story of man's "glorious unsought fight" is told in parable. Krishna, standing for man's Higher Self, exhorts Arjuna, the human soul, to "arise and fight" the enemies of progress. And when finally Arjuna enters the fray, equipped with courage and will, Krishna unfolds to him the pattern of his origin and destiny, in the course of which he confirms that ancient tradition that Sowers come forth to sow when the call is sufficiently great: "I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of the righteous."
Man gets exactly what he earns. If truth were his sole concern, then the seed of the kingdom would have lodged safely in the field of his heart, and fruit after its kind would be his. But the fact remains that age after age, while the seed of the kingdom was cast by Sower after Sower, men have slept, and the enemies of progress have come and sowed the tares of destruction, literalism and greed. To weigh seriously the motivating influences of Greek thought, or even of early Christian days, to say nothing of our nebulous if divine origin and our far distant future, seems scarcely practical today when man must face squarely the facts of the present. Yet history has a way of repeating itself, and the experiences of former cycles not only leave their subtle impact on the present, but actually in dim outline foreshadow the blueprint of our future.
We stand at the crossroads of destiny, and choose we must — between the downward pull of matter, and the long upward climb toward spirit. The harvest is here, and tares and wheat are in abundance. But behind the thicket of hate and despair, testimony of millenniums declares that there does exist a granary of Truth, from which the seed of the kingdom may be had. While the wheat of aspiration will be gathered into the 'barn' or recesses of the soul, men must self-consciously burn the tares of greed in the furnace of suffering. The question is: have we suffered enough to want truth more than anything else in life; and if so, have we suffered still more to want to share that truth with others before we ourselves are satisfied? If we have, then fully awakened, the race will keep the enemy out of the field, and the seed of the kingdom of truth will bring forth its fruit an hundredfold.
If help was given when the race was young, and if Sowers have repeatedly cast fresh seed into the world of men, is there any reason to doubt that help will not be ours if the call is strong and true?
(From Sunrise magazine, November 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)