"Watchman, What of the Night?"

Marjorie Hall, England

Our little earth, as it rolls along its orbit round the sun, makes a very pleasant stage-coach for those living upon it. In the daytime our portion of the earth is turned towards the sun, and earth's atmosphere deals with his rays in its own magical manner, blending and diffusing them, forming the color effects of our world — all of which we seem to regard as our own special, private holding in the universe, thus creating an illusion that "the sky's the limit," that the cloud-haunted scene over our heads has nothing to reveal beyond its own daytime grandeur. But at night our planet rolls us away from the immediate presence of light, and we look out upon a vastly different scene. Our stage-coach becomes an observation car!

Night brings a mystical call from the outer universe. We are reminded that there are other worlds, and a suggestion may touch our minds that our little holding is not so very private and special after all, that both it and ourselves have a kinship with those beckoning stars.

Lao Tse, the Chinese philosopher said: "The universe and I came into existence together." Those wise ancients taught that the reason for the existence of the universe is spiritual evolution, growth of soul, expansion of consciousness, and that matter is nothing without life, and the root of every being is a spark or ray of the divine essence.

Unfortunately, or so we think, this spiritual evolution includes dark cycles when the knowledge of our unity with the cosmic heart is forced back by the intensity of our trials and often forgotten for very long periods. We pass through the crucible of suffering and our soul seems well-nigh stifled. We are in one such cycle now — an age of spiritual night. But even in these ages of darkness mankind has an intuitive feeling that there is a more spacious, satisfying kind of life hidden away somewhere, and that there is help to be had, and cries out in effect: "Watchmen, what of this dreary night, when all existence is meaningless and so full of miseries?" His heart cry reaches the Guardians, for there are Guardians who have mankind in their care, and the gist of their reply is: "Learn to bring light into the darkness yourselves. The night surrounds you so that you may find the source of strength in yourselves, and bring it forth to make new glory in the universe."

The source of strength in ourselves is that ray of the cosmic Divinity. It is our higher self, often spoken of as the inner God, the Father within. By turning aside from the search for "the kingdom of heaven," we both lose our way and fill the night with horrific forms, emotional and mental ghosts. Life then is lived on a basis of false ideas, and ugly and cruel civilizations are produced, together with a lively crop of physical and mental diseases, turning our dark age into something like the stygian midnight of an African jungle.

It is comforting to consider some of the sayings of Jesus. "I come from my Father, which is in heaven." "The Kingdom of heaven is within you." Here is a clear indication of the Divine cosmic root and the oneness of all things. "Take the kingdom of heaven by storm." There is that voice of the Guardians saying: "Bring light into the darkness yourselves, find your own strength." Then "greater things than these shall ye do." "In my Father's house are many mansions." A statement that the cosmos is a living spirit-matter organism with progressive accommodation for growing souls.

Let us return to our thoughts about the earth and the sun. I remember reading somewhere that if we represent the sun with a basket-ball, the earth can be represented by a sweet pea seed placed thirty-five feet away. This made me think that sometimes "night" seems to be folded within "day." The portion of sweet-pea seed facing away from the basket-ball may be having bitter winter night, with fog, and to the residents of that particular spot of pea it is hard to believe that the sun can ever shine again and thaw their frozen bones. Yet on the other side of the pea-seed there is brilliant day, and in all directions into measureless space is pouring constantly the light and vitality of the basket-ball sun. So that while some of her children go spluttering through the freezing fog, little mother pea is serenely floating in a sea of light and warmth.

This idea applies to the inner natures of the folks lost in the fog, for while they feel that their present experience engulfs the whole of existence, that higher self of theirs is blending its consciousness with the spiritual consciousness of the sun. It knows the secrets of the lives of the planets, and sheds its influence on the ordinary man. It waits and seeks to help, while the struggling, half-evolved human creature obscures its radiance and does his best to cut himself off from its guardianship.

The old song says: "Watchman, what of the night when the arrow of death is sped, and the grave, which no glimmering star can light, shall be my sleeping bed?" But all things in the heavens and on earth, and earth herself, are continually living and dying, changing and flowing, in and out of different conditions and places and duties in the universal structure of being, as their consciousness grows and deepens. The atom in the crystal will one day become one of the stars in the sky. Then we can imagine the star looking back on the grave in gratitude, for without the grave there could be no star.

(From Sunrise magazine, May 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)

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