How may one become aware of God, of Divinity, of that source of Power which enables man to meet with wisdom and strength the challenge of Life? That is the big world question today, which must be faced, not alone by the individual, but by nations and races. This yearning for God, this longing for awareness of Deity, is not unique. Ever since man stepped out of the area of innocence, armed it is true with the knowledge of good and evil but as yet unaware how wisely to handle such knowledge, he has searched for God. Who or what God is, no man can define. Sometimes He seems closer to us than our breath; at other times so remote as to be unconcerned with the suffering of man.
Is God then outside of man, an extracosmic power, that can be approached only by supplication and prayer? Or is Divinity part and parcel of the universe, and of everything within that universe, and hence immanent in the core of man himself? Surely the latter. For God by any name — Jehovah or Allah, Krishna, Apollo or Odin — is man's origin, hope and goal. The God within each one of us is different, and yet the same. For Deity is all things to all men, and still One — immanent and yet transcendent. Divinity is — the very backbone of existence, and therefore inherent in and at the heart of every manifested being or thing. It "droppeth as the gentle rain" upon the "just and the unjust," heeding little the qualities which any man may assign to his particular concept of God.
If our Inner God seems at times so distant, it is we who have run away from it. To feel its strength and to sense its guidance, it is we who must tune in to the wave-length of Divinity. When a man's heart is bent toward selfish pursuits, when his consciousness never reaches out to others, then he is not close to that wave-length. But when pain, conflict and anguish have tempered his soul, refined his aspiration, and he strives to build upon qualities similar to God, then his consciousness tunes in to Deity, for the law of attraction operates infallibly.
Today we are in a transition between reliance on the racial gods of our forefathers and the innate longing to become self-reliant, God-reliant as one minister put it. The Biblical stories, for instance, which tell of the nearness of Jehovah to his people so that literally they felt his guiding presence, no longer meet the need of our times. When the race was young, objective Gods were not only a help but a kindly necessity; but now, they must be transmuted into recognition of the inherent Divinity in all things. It is not God or Deity that recedes into the background, so that God's Presence is not to be felt as strongly as of old. Rather is it that we, as a humanity, have outgrown the puerile concept of an objectivized Deity, and hence can no longer benefit from the personalized Jehovahs or Allahs of the past. Those racial gods represented a cyclical period in the history of mankind. But as the races succeed each other, men must reach the point of self-reliance; and the closer a man or a race comes to awareness of Truth, the more the personalized Deities disappear. Gradually but nonetheless steadily, man is reaching that point in his spiritual history when reliance on one's own inner Divinity is imperative if he is to endure. Extracosmic expressions of Deity, with power to reward or punish at will, objectivized and personalized gods who can be petitioned at call, are going by the way; while the subjective or inner approach to God is on the increase, the modern — and truly ancient — means of tuning in to the wave-length of our own Inner God.
Each one of us, almost every day of our lives, is I believe sufficiently alert to recognize our nearness to Divinity, if only for a fleeting moment. But knowing of the operation of the cyclic law of Nature, it becomes our responsibility to strengthen each one of those moments in order that when they return again they might have more power to enlighten. Not that we as individuals might have power, but that the influence of the Divinity that is trying so hard to manifest within us may find it easier to illumine our ordinary working consciousness.
The only way we can become more aware of Divinity is to live in and through the qualities and virtues that we have given to God — not necessarily the qualities and virtues that others have given to their God. If they express the qualities of their own Inner God sufficiently powerfully so that we recognize them, then that is to the good, and we can benefit greatly by observing. It matters little what name we attach to God, for the quality of Godhood or Deity is not altered. In the Merchant of Venice we recall the phrase: "The quality of mercy is not strained" — the quality of Divinity is not strained or altered by your or my or by anyone's definition of God. But no one is an authority for anyone else, and least of all should you accept another's concept of God just because that other is supposedly more advanced, intellectually or spiritually, than you think you are. There isn't anyone who can speak with final authority about God, or Truth — about anything. I recognize more authority in the simple concepts of God expressed by little children than in the dogmas stated by all the Church Fathers, all the Popes, all the Tashi Lamas. Because in the child you experience a close proximity to Divinity, as close and as pure as you will ever find it anywhere — until you yourself or I myself come face to face with our own Inner God.
Truth then is just as close to man as God — and just as remote. There is a direct parallel, because true esoteric values are just as near to us as God, if we are searching; and just as distant and remote if we turn away from truth. A most important thought to consider, because we are right in the middle of a period in the history of mankind when the need for an illumined concept of a Higher Law is a necessity.
Our problem is the same as it has always been: the great temptation to think of God or Deity as apart from man, as some force outside of ourselves. Everyone has the same temptation: we get into a tight spot, and then get frantic and start to call for help — mostly for help from above or On High, from somewhere outside of ourselves. Rarely do we follow the injunction of the Master Jesus to go into the closet of our hearts and pray in secret to "the Father within" — within you and within me. Every world teacher has taught the same: in the stillness ye shall find Him. Of course it is difficult, and it seems impossible at times, to silence confusion, pain and terror. But that is the very moment, when the world and all its legions seem toppling over one, to attempt to commune at least briefly with the Divinity that is within. If a wise man has a problem, a difficult one, and finds the opportunity to go into the closet of his own heart, stilling the opposition to that quietness to the best of his ability, he does not pray to his Father, his inner Divinity, for this, that or the other objective thing. Never. His attitude is: "Not my will — not the will of the personal nature — but Thy will — the will of the Divinity within — be done, so that the true working of the Law might be fulfilled."
We should keep in mind that it is the Divinity within, our own Higher selves, that we are seeking, not necessarily to commune with in the ordinary sense, but seeking to feel the quality of Divinity that we might translate it into understanding and wisdom in our own active lives.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna in his dialogue with Arjuna says: "It doesn't matter what god one worships, ultimately he will come to Me." That does not mean that everybody will ultimately accept Krishna as his or her concept of God — not at all. But it does mean that everyone, no matter how they name their God, will ultimately come to recognize that Divinity within their own hearts as a spark of the universal Divinity that pervades all.
Nowadays we hear a great deal — too much in fact — about meditation and contemplation. How can I learn to meditate so that I may achieve union with my God — all in the space of a life-time, at that! If by prayer or meditation you mean that you must select a certain time and a certain place and a certain chair every day, and sit in a certain fancy posture in order to become one-pointed and accomplish the true purpose of spiritual development — then I want no parts of it. That to me is just as dead for the spiritual needs of our times as the objective aspect of Jehovah is dead, because it has receded into the distance to give place to the subjective aspect that is alive and full of fire and strength, giving off its spiritual radiance in the life of each one of us. But if by prayer and meditation — which when properly done are one and the same thing — you mean inward brooding with the soul-part of us, going into the quiet corners of our own heart and endeavoring to understand that which is needed in consultation with the Divinity within — then we shall be coming very close indeed to the real meditation, the real prayer.
Selfish prayer, prayers that beseech the Lord to do our will instead of His, and selfish meditation, the type that centers its force on our salvation instead of the liberation of the whole of mankind from the fetters of ignorance, are both equally limited. True prayer, true meditation, is not the deliberate, conscious brooding, but is what one can only call a state of alertness while fulfilling the daily responsibilities — an alertness to those little sparks or messages, almost like the wireless dot and dash, that break through our working consciousness, and we recognize a little light, or a new thought. There is no need to stop our work and sit down and try to figure it out. If we do that, the chances are it will vanish. Quietly give it welcome, and with open consciousness let it seep through our being.
Anyone can learn to pinpoint his concentration on a given subject, so that if he puts his consciousness inside an empty match box and concentrates his attention on nothing but that empty match box, he can learn all about how that match box came into being. But that flouts Divinity! I want to know how I came into being, and where I am going. The only way I can get the answer to that is first by observing myself, and in time becoming more and more like the "master of the chariot" as the Upanishads phrase it. The more we can muse or reflect in the background of our consciousness over the meaning of life and our responsibility in and toward it, the sooner will we reach that point at which our lives will be a constant and uninterrupted prayer or meditation. Then we will begin more consciously, and with more understanding, to become an observer as well as an actor on the stage of our natural lives. And as the relationship between the observer and the actor becomes closer and more intimate, they in time will become one in every thought and deed.
Time and place are nothing in these matters. It may be that our duties take us into the busiest marts of men. But we can be brooding, not with our brain which would interfere with the proper fulfillment of our duties, but with that inner part of us, and the light may come as a flash. In every aspiration, every reach toward our divine source, we have the constant and unerring help of the law of cyclic return. Ever the wheel moves on, and the impress we make upon the cycles will as surely return upon our consciousness as the "wheel follows the foot of the ox."
How then may we become aware of Divinity, our own inner God, so that its wisdom may enter into our lives? "Humbly, we beseech Thee, O Lord," begins the old hymn. Without the element of humility, we might as well search elsewhere, for we cannot approach Divinity until we have transmuted the lead of egotism into the gold of humility. Humility is the mark of true discipleship, and without it no genuine aspirant can make progress. To the degree that we can put into practice the qualities of the Divinity within and can increase the potency of those qualities flowing through our working consciousness, to that degree will we tune in to the higher wave-lengths, and in time recognize Divinity everywhere, in every body and in every thing.
(From Sunrise magazine, May 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)