For many years there was a persimmon tree in our garden, framed as in a picture in the kitchen window, and I found singular pleasure in its seasonal changes from the pale green leaf of spring to flaming autumn tones. One day, when many of the leaves had fallen and the branches were laden with fruit, I happened to glance out of the window just as the slanting rays of the afternoon sun transformed the persimmons into glowing lanterns. The tree suddenly became for me a living symbol of a Tree of Life, of those guardians of the human race who, radiant with the light of their inner sun, willingly share the harvest of their wisdom with humankind, and illumine the dark corners of mind and heart.
Every season reveals something of nature's divine genius, and opens doorways in our consciousness to the spiritual promise that lies ahead. The seasons are also qualities expressive of the rhythmic flow and ebb of life. Their beauty suggests they are but reflections of what is going on of far greater moment on inner planes. It has long been known that at the Four Sacred Seasons — the Winter and Summer Solstices and Spring and Autumn Equinoxes — stronger spiritual energies can be felt by those who are receptive.
Autumn is the crown jewel of the seasons, a blending and culmination of them all. The very essence of it is fulfillment and sacrifice: leaves sacrifice the last of their vitality to the buds at the base of the leaf stem that will rest through winter and burst into life in spring, finally the old leaves in a blaze of color fall to the ground and, in dying, provide mulch to nourish the tree and new seeds. Fruit ripens and its rich harvest is shared by many creatures, including ourselves. Then the tree is quiescent until springtime comes again. But autumn's harvest extends beyond golden grain and ripened fruit, to all ranges of consciousness. Seedtime and harvest are a universal process.
In the cycle of a life the autumn years can be the richest and most rewarding, when nonessentials begin to drop off like falling leaves, and the natural opportunity arrives to garner the wisdom gained thus far, while at the same time there is a gradual indrawing of the consciousness for the journey of the soul at death.
Dusk, the autumn time of day, is the most mysterious; like autumn, it lies between two worlds. It is the sunset hour when the light of day gives way to the light of moon and stars; where day and night meet and bring one to new frontiers of thought and experience, to the threshold of nature's rest time and its link with inner worlds. In sleep and in death the real self is free to roam the stars, though the soul is as yet unconscious of this adventure.
At the Autumn Equinox, "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness," advanced human beings, through eons of discipline have earned the right to experience death self-consciously, traversing the planets and the sun itself. Those rare souls who return have conquered death and give up their rest to help humanity.
In our present human stage tests of character and of inner strength come to us constantly in what we may call daily initiations. These still all that we can safely handle; more than this requires a preparedness beyond anything we can now imagine. Yet prepare we must, continually, for preparedness is fundamental in nature, and therefore in our own lives. In the long-range picture we are gods in the making.
During autumn, the inbreathing phase of the year, extensive preparations are taking place behind the scenes: trees transfer more and more sugar into sap to thicken it before the onset of winter's cold; squirrels gather nuts for the lean months, and some insects crawl into the earth, or spin cocoons. Such foresight is an indication of intelligent planning and gives one confidence that the safe road toward spiritual advancement is the slow and steady one.
To return to the persimmon tree: it occurred to me that only when the fruit is fully ripe can it glow in the sun's light, and every time we show warmth and compassion for another, and sacrifice more of our personal attachments, we are mellowing in understanding and kindling the light of our real self.
(From Sunrise magazine, August/September 1988. Copyright © 1988 by Theosophical University Press)