My home lies at the foothills of the Alps. It's a short walk to the woods where we find rest after a long day at work and where nature with her harmonious colors and shapes provides an ideal setting for nourishing beautiful thoughts. And yet, just a few hours' drive away a terrible war has been raging. When we watch television, horrible pictures appear in our living rooms — pictures of the suffering of our fellow human beings which touch and stay with us, in one way or another, all day long. Pronouncements and opinions about the situation are overwhelming and sometimes contradictory. I find it difficult to form my own view and do justice to all parties: the misery, suffering, and sorrow of so many people on all sides is too enormous to comprehend and judge.
Trying to put this conflict into a larger context, I looked into The Secret Doctrine. There Blavatsky speaks of the war in heaven, saying it is
the war between spirit and matter. This war will last till the inner and divine man adjusts his outer terrestrial self to his own spiritual nature. Till then the dark and fierce passions of the former will be at eternal feud with his master, the Divine Man. But the animal will be tamed one day, because its nature will be changed, and harmony will reign once more between the two . . . — 2:268
The war between spirit and matter is an expression of our dual nature, and indeed of duality itself. The ancient wisdom teaches that the events of our daily lives are but reflections of something in higher spheres. What takes place in "heaven" remains abstract to us; it is beyond our understanding. We are dealing with effects, the causes of which we do not know. On earth we are confronted with war — which is an effect — as something very real and tangible. The present war is but one aspect, though a particularly painful one, of a battle which takes place in our own hearts — and here we find the cause — all over the globe. Our inner being is the battlefield of our dual nature which urges us, on the one hand, to yield to selfish, egoistic desires and longings; and on the other hand, to foster spiritual thinking and impartial sympathy for others. It is up to each of us which side we choose to help toward victory. The more that people unite to support selfless efforts and compassionate impulses in themselves, the greater this uplifting power will be, until it finally becomes the guiding star for all humanity.
But is such a course effective and realistic? G. de Purucker addresses this concern in explaining how the Theosophical Society "goes to the roots of the cause of the misery and of the suffering which exist among men":
Is there anything more practical and more useful than changing the hearts and minds of men through entering into them of the forces of imagination and practical ideals? . . . Change the hearts and minds of men by giving them a vision and by acquainting them with the magnificent power of a constructive imagination, and all the causes of suffering and misery will vanish. . . .
What does the T. S. do in a practical way for mankind? I come back to the thought: It changes men's minds and hearts upwards and unifies them. When this is done all is done. — Messages to Conventions, pp. 149-52
It is a great challenge to seek to bring about a radical change — a change from the very roots — in order to help humanity. It is a different approach to turn to the inner self to explain to people what they are in essence. As we allow this inner self to manifest more fully, it will become the leading factor in human thought and action, for it alone can surmount what separates and recognize what is in common; it alone can lead us along the narrow way which will finally bring about peace.
Buddhism teaches that there is suffering, that there is a reason for suffering, and that there exists a noble eightfold path which leads to the end of suffering. All the virtues on this path pertain to the inner self and lead towards a knowledge of the causes of suffering and their eventual eradication. Many different virtues have to be developed, but all of them are found on the battlefield of daily life. They help us awaken the inner fire which enables us to distinguish selfless from selfish, higher from lower, good from bad, loving from hateful. Such qualities cannot be recognized by reason alone; purely logical thinking cannot define them. They originate from the same spiritual source, and this source is one for all. As Katherine Tingley noted,
the great power of the divine universe is in every human heart, even the most wretched and unfortunate, and it does not take a lifetime, it does not take a year, for a man to discover the god within himself. If he has the courage to face the issue he may find it in a moment of time. . . .
. . . We might attain vision of eternal existence by penetrating beyond the mind to the real self within, by finding there the conscious power that will carry us away from the sense-life and over the high walls of the mind. . . .
. . . The divine laws are greater than human laws. They are permanent and eternal and there is no change in them: political systems do not touch them nor sectarian influences corrupt. Right thought and action can lift us for the time being, always, onto the plane of the soul, and when we are there we are raising the whole human race towards the level of its rights, possibilities, and spiritual heritage. — The Gods Await, pp. 38-52
How can we gain the peace we long for? In the invaluable treasury of thoughts and ideas of the ancient wisdom a keynote is struck, based on the fact that the divine spark is in every human being, that nothing can separate us, and that together we form a unity. The name of this keynote is UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD.
(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 1999. Copyright © 1999 by Theosophical University Press)