To Sleep Is to Awake

Gertrude Hockinson

There is considerable encouragement in what the Greeks used to say, that "sleep and death are brothers," for sleep is one of the most intimate aspects of our lives. We know it well and it is a welcome necessity. To think of death as a longer interval of sleep than our customary night's rest, and the gradual increase of perception that grows in a child as a morning awakening, is heartening.

One's thought leaps to understand the implications of this idea, and many familiar things surrounding us every day point in that direction.

Note the trees that in their natural seasons drop their leaves, then rest in a seeming silent death until the time they come to life again and new green leaves appear.

For birth hath in itself the germ of death,
But death hath in itself the germ of birth.
It is the falling acorn buds the tree,
The falling rain that bears the greenery,
The fern-plants moulder when the ferns arise,
For there is nothing lives but something dies,
And there is nothing dies but something lives.

As we rejoice to see sleeping seeds and trees awaken to fresh flowering, may we not detect in this a progressive unfoldment that applies to man as well?

We cannot separate the life that instills all things to grow from that which sustains ourselves. For, as with them, the steady flow of life within us persists through change. Who is the man who once was infant, child, and youth? The image reflected in a mirror has been changing with the experiences of passing years, yet we remain the same individual. Nor are we ever able to express all the best we feel in mind and heart. It would seem injustice to assume that we have no more to do with these potentials within ourselves than we can use here and now. And sure it is that the growth of each of us depends upon our association with each other and with the other kingdoms of life on this globe, Nature's great family. What we share and what is shared with us makes up our lives, and at the same time the lives of all these others.

Cooperation and interdependability, sacrifices and benefits, so blend us together that we cannot move or think without each other. That this is the basis of our survival, and proof of our unity, is generally unrecognized in full. The maturity that goes with this concept is still within us, awaiting our assistance in its unfoldment.

Such maturity has been called enlightenment; its fruit, compassion. The broader our compassion the more we think and act in conscious union with all that lives around us.

Not the simplest facet of our daily experiences but fits into the universal scheme of things: this is the challenge to our understanding. We cannot learn all the correspondences and correlations overnight. But we can trust that as we live at all, and sleep and wake, we shall go on sharing what we are and can become. What if sometimes we sleep so long that when we wake our memory of a previous "day" is dim? May not our native instincts, the characteristic talents, preferences and prejudices of each of us, be intimations of intrinsic memory?

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

Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. — Robert Louis Stevenson

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