With the coming of New Year, our thoughts often turn to renewal and change. Many people associate this season with making resolutions to break old habits or become a better person. It seems a natural time for reexamining ourselves and for trying once again to reflect our values more fully in daily life. With all this, New Year's resolutions are rarely taken seriously. They justly have a reputation for being perfunctory acknowledgments of a level of behavior we have no real expectation of attaining, or short-lived bursts of enthusiasm which soon wear away as we settle back into our accustomed grooves of thought and activity. Because it is so difficult to change and become that which we hold as an ideal, particularly when part of us is really just too comfortable to give up the old routines without a struggle, we sometimes become rather cynical and despondent about the whole process of self-improvement.
Interestingly, though, no matter how far back we go in history, people the world over seem to have sought to find a way to live their thoughts and ideals, as if it were an urge springing from the very nature of humanhood itself. Surely these people, many of whom were among the greatest minds and characters the race has produced, must have had what they considered reasonable grounds for these persistent efforts, efforts which they themselves called the most difficult open to man. Much of our knowledge concerning these human strivings in past eras has been preserved in the symbols and writings of the various world beliefs. The religious symbolism of many ancient civilizations, for example, embodies not only cosmic principles but also the experience of every individual as he seeks to expand or universalize his consciousness. While the details of this symbolism are fascinating in themselves, it is certain simple maxims, giving the essence of the practical teachings, that are most striking because they can be applied directly to ourselves.
One such thought distilled from the ancient Egyptian texts stands out particularly: "Match thyself" — that is, strive to equal in your everyday consciousness that which you already are in the heart of your being. This implies that when we endeavor to change ourselves, we are not seeking to conform to some outer standard whether of god or man; nor are we setting up objective goals for ourselves to reach. Rather, we are seeking to become in our personality that universal essence which we are in our inmost.
So often we emphasize the external forces, forgetting the internal. We tend to see ourselves as a body vitalized by a personal ego, and nothing more. Some have gone so far as to insist that man's consciousness is only a by-product of his physical apparatus. In contrast, this Egyptian saying suggests that our whole being flows forth from a divine center of consciousness which focuses itself on many different levels. Self-improvement in this context means that we have to "match" or align all these levels of awareness with the qualities present in the source of our being by a continuing use of the human will. Assuredly this task is often filled with disappointments and setbacks. However, when we think of ourselves as essentially godlike, we discover that change is not a question of imposing something on ourselves from outside, but of letting that which is already within us come forth, just as the growing child gradually unfolds from his consciousness the attributes that make of him a mature human being. By realizing that every man is a universal being, no matter how poorly expressed through his personality, we should gain confidence in our power to become ever more fully the divine sun which is the heart of each one of us.
(From Sunrise magazine, January 1976. Copyright ©1976 by Theosophical University Press)