As Little Children

James A. Long

In the Christian Scriptures we read that the Master Jesus said: "Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." A statement so simple that for years and years we have failed to give it the attention it merits.

Who was the Master Jesus speaking to? To little children? To boys and girls? Or to those just come of age? Not at all. He was speaking to adults, those who had problems both material and spiritual, and who had come to the Master for help. He knew their difficulties inner and outer, and he saw in their faces exactly what anyone may see today in the faces of men and women everywhere.

In times of crisis we become so caught up with the current of the moment that we lose sight of the fact that the immediate situation is only one point in a long series of situations, the culmination of years, perhaps lifetimes, of experiences. Not recognizing that, we lose perspective and cut ourselves off from the value of those past experiences which if understood would help us solve the immediate problem. So, blinded by confusion, we think we are being imposed upon, not only by others but by Life itself. As a result, we blame everybody else — our neighbors, our business associates, maybe even our family and close friends, or the government, the world, anything — but ourselves. That is what the Master Jesus must have seen in the faces of those to whom he spoke those words. How clouded was their consciousness, how many thick veils they had allowed to be built between what they were when the Master saw them, and what they were as little children.

All of us have made our lives difficult beyond need. For millenniums we have prided ourselves on our learning, our erudition, our understanding of truth. And yet the Teachers of the race have ever reminded mankind that the Heart doctrine is to be preferred to the Eye doctrine: the learning that is native to the heart, the intuition, the spiritual will of man, rather than the learning that is purely mental, intellectual only and motivated by the human will. We talk glibly about intuition versus intellect, but what do we do about it? Can't we realize that the problems of life are solved not by reason, but by intuition; not by sentimentality, but by judgment? It is when we fail to keep that thread of support and strength attached to that which the Master Jesus referred to in 'little children" that we lose our bearings.

Those of us who love children are astounded at the virgin intuition that is expressed, amazed at times at their pure judgment. Everyone knows that the most difficult questions to answer are those asked by the very little ones, who uncannily dive right to the core of the basic problems that often floor the world's philosophers. And we will never satisfy our children if we appeal to their reason or their sentiments; but how their eyes sparkle when we appeal to their innate intuition and judgment.

Why then did the Master urge his followers to become as little ones if they would attain the kingdom of heaven? Did he want them to return to childish pranks, and to act and think literally as children? Certainly not. He was appealing to that quality which was like unto the child. Let us look at ourselves today. What happens to us as we grow up? We go through school, perhaps university if we are fortunate. We begin to feel as though we are learning a great deal. But what do we do with that learning, whether it is scholastic or practical, religious or scientific? In many cases, we merely file it away in our minds for possible later use. That process goes on for years, and as a result, when we are confronted with real difficulties, when we are plunged into the maelstrom of life's vicissitudes, what do we do? In our anxious state, and even after sober reflection, we attempt to pull out of our mental filing cabinet those things which we think will solve our problem, only to find that we have not solved it at all, either to the satisfaction of ourselves or to others who may be involved.

Now why? Here again is an indication of what the Master Jesus was pointing to. Instead of our trying to rack our brains and worry out the answers with our minds, if we had stored the value of each experience in our hearts, in the permanent part of our consciousness, then as we face more serious problems we would discover that the mind is not in the way, for the heart, having taken over, would automatically lead us to the right answer. The intuition then will have become our guide, and the mind its obedient servant, the implementor of its directives — never its master.

It might seem a most difficult task for those of us who are older and have made many mistakes, perhaps even grave ones, to become in a short time like a child. But that is not the case. The Master Jesus knew it was not difficult or he would not have admonished the people of his day to do just that. And especially is it possible once a man has determined to give his life in service.

Let us ask ourselves this simple question: what is the foundation in the child's consciousness that allows his intuition and judgment to operate so beautifully? He has recently come from another world. He is freshly arrived from another shore. And at his tender age he is unencumbered by the difficulties of his past or his future, so that he has a truly virgin consciousness with which to prepare for the experiences ahead. He has come into life, as Wordsworth so graphically phrased it, "trailing clouds of glory . . . from God, who is our home." Everyone learns that in school, and yet we do not realize its portent. What does the child bring with him most of all? It is trust — that genuine foundation upon which the spiritual growth of the world must be built. What human being who has any love in his heart at all cannot recognize that implicit trust in the eyes of a child who newly looks upon a world and his parents as greater than himself, to whom he can always turn in trust? But as he goes through life, he finds less and less trust in the hearts of those with whom he must associate. As a result, he becomes confused, maybe even bitter.

To become as little children! There is a simple way of doing it, which does not appeal, perhaps, because we are human. But it has been the same all down the ages: "Man, Know Thyself!" That injunction was not new to those who worshiped at the Temple of Apollo, or who listened for and believed in the Oracles of ancient Greece. That injunction is timeless, and therefore as potent today as when first enunciated to infant humanity. The only way we can know ourselves is honestly to search our consciousness. If we can do this squarely, we will stop blaming everybody else for our trials. But we have ourselves so cluttered up with that filing system of mental facts which we are so fond of that we cannot break through to the door of our hearts where the pure intuition and help reside. Once we make the determination to face ourselves and assume the full responsibility of our circumstances, then the gods stoop down to help, at unexpected times, through unexpected persons, and in unexpected ways. It is an inviolable law and offers the foundation in fact of the famous expression of Hercules to the wagoner: "Put your shoulder to the wheel, for God helps those who first help themselves."

Every man is intrinsically a child of God, as near to Divinity as any other. Once we realize that fact literally, and stop tossing it around metaphorically, the truth of its significance will soak into our being and transform our lives. Until we become as little children we shall never attain that state of consciousness where we feel the full value and help of the spiritual forces that protect mankind.

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

To suffer is to labor. A great misfortune properly endured is a progress accomplished.. Those who suffer much live more truly than those who undergo no trials. — Eliphas Levi

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