The chain is a familiar symbol in the portrayal of various phases of life, chiefly to indicate strength or power. We speak of the chain of circumstances, the chain of action and reaction, the chains of habit, chains of bondage, the chain that brakes the wheel, the protective chain on the door and the golden chain of heroes and seers linking down through the history of man.
You have heard it said that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. For a moment let's imagine humanity as a chain and ourselves as its conscious links, products of life and of our own forging. As in a chain of metal so it may be said that humanity is as strong as its weakest conscious link. The weakness in a metallic chain can be easily determined, but in the case of a man it is not so easy — we might say it is impossible — to foresee the unpredictable turn of his action, the tempered energy of his will or the silent depths of his mind. Man's weaknesses as well as his strengths lie deeply hidden within his motives, his impulses, his desires and ambitions; in his integrity and loyalty to honor and truth. In times of tension men bent upon the accomplishment of some personal gain are quick to "work upon" a likely prospect by cajoling his weaknesses, while at the same time probing into his virtues for some vulnerable spot, some point of attack, some weak link in his armor of loyalty and manhood. However, the attempt is often foiled by the man himself.
One example will suffice for general application. Students of American history may recall the incidents leading up to and surrounding the proposed impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, revolving about Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War, and the Tenure of Office Act. Attention is here directed not to the President or his impeachment, but to the supposedly weakest link in the chain of seven Senators who stood for acquittal. These seven held a slim balance in the pending crisis. Only one change of vote was required to swing the tide. Edmund Ross, one of the seven, was apparently wavering. In the manner of men those who favored impeachment brought great pressure to bear upon him, fully expecting that he would default. But at the crucial moment he cast his vote to sustain the President. Thereby what might well have proved to be a national blunder, if not a clear catastrophe, was averted. The weakest link held and saved from peril a Cause to which he had pledged his allegiance and service. In the agonizing struggle within his own soul, facing loss of friends, position, fortune and favor, everything that makes life dear to the ambitious man, he found strength to hold true to his loyalty, his trust and his spiritual conviction. The weakest link became the fulcrum of justice.
Whence comes this power to see and hold to the larger issue, the higher objective and ideal in crises, whether national, international or individual? In the last analysis is not every crisis individual? Does not every crisis hang upon the action and reaction of individuals, and rest finally upon the individual as a unit of the whole, one link in the chain? One cell can create a consuming cancer. The nature and strength of a whole organism is built up from a single germ. One man brings to focus the destiny of a nation. Whence the discerning power and the power of steadfastness that strengthens the link and holds the man together in sure resolve? It may be defined as faith, loyalty, patriotism, integrity, trust; all calling for definition, but all rising from the deep wellspring of his own being, the divine Principle that animates and guides all life, call it by what name you choose. The source is a spiritual reservoir from which he may draw, if he will, the wisdom and the strength to endure; the will to stand firm in devotion to the higher call.
In some crisis any one of us may stand at the crucial point in a chain of circumstances. May the weakest link hold!
Truly we are the servants, the links of destiny, each according to his purpose, his strength, his opportunity and his action.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 1953; copyright © 1953 Theosophical University Press)
Human beings really live surrounded by the waves of thought flung off by their own brains and the brains of those around them — and this is the reason why, if they are not strong enough to find a centre-poise, they are influenced by ways and moods of thought which would never be their own by choice and free-will. If a mind, or let us say a Soul, can resist the impressions brought to bear upon it by other forces than itself . . . then it has gained a mastership over all things. — Marie Corelli