Many of us pride ourselves on being open and ready to welcome new ideas when the old are worn, to replace false values with sounder ones and, when necessary, to make a complete about-face in order that we may achieve a deeper level of insight. Yet how often we find ourselves trapped within the framework of self-created habits of thought, even against our will. We may sense the solution to a problem, or intellectually suspect the right answer, but try as we may, we seem unable to break through to it. Why is this? Are we really helpless creatures, the unwilling victims of circumstance?
It is obvious that every human being, at any given stage of his growth, is indeed encompassed by certain limitations, hemmed in by what someone graphically called a "ring pass not"; but this is none other than the horizon of understanding beyond which he is incapable of perceiving at that particular moment. Let us not be intimidated by words: life is not a closed circle which, once we are in, we cannot get out of. No, the whole of evolution proceeds spirally, from the expression of the molecule to that of sunspots and galaxies.
Nor should we overlook the magnificent fact that consciousness is co-extensive with space, so that there are no barriers in the vastness of infinity that cannot, in time, be surmounted. Thought pervades the universe, and hence our consciousness, human though it still is and very imperfect, reaches far beyond the confines of our physical body. The very act of looking up at the stars and sensing their majesty is itself a transmission of consciousness particles that literally bridge the seemingly impassable gulf between earth and our parent-galaxy, the Milky Way.
There is no limit to the potentialities of every mathematical point in the cosmos, for each minutest speck of life has the potential of that of which it is a part; and everything in between the tiniest atom and the universal Intelligence is on its way toward that supreme estate. And that Intelligence itself will some day be on a still greater round of experience in supergalactic spheres. There is no end to growth, no end to inner and outer space; and, as we come self-consciously to synthesize the many facets of our complex constitution, we may be able to see the inner "spaces of space" from which we came, and thus glimpse a vision of the grand outer rounds through which our future will take us. That integrated vision of our mission will be the ultimate effect of our learning how to read the unfolding script of our lives.
This concept of our pilgrimage may seem far away, beyond any possibility of achievement. But it has immediate practical value in helping us meet with a larger measure of equanimity the present series of crises with which we are confronted. We will realize that there is not a difficulty that cannot be viewed from a higher point on the spiral rather than a lower one, by a higher part of our nature instead of our less progressed self. We tend to demean what we are: made in God's image, working our way through the school of material life in which conflict between the spiritual and the earthly, the noble and the mean, is an essential and very necessary step in the process of development. If we did not each possess a reservoir of extreme strength at the core of our being, no Christ or Buddha would have sown the seeds of enlightenment to remind us that the works that they accomplished, you and I might do also, and even greater. Those examples of sacrifice, however, were neither the first in the story of mankind, nor will they be the last. Ever since we first recognized ourselves as thinking units of creation, there have been similar elements of wisdom and compassion who have knowingly yielded their right of advancement on a higher spiral in order that we below them might periodically have some guidance for our long pilgrimage.
I am convinced that those Great Protectors who stood by us in our racial infancy have maintained their watch through the cycles, and are as strong in their guardianship today as they ever were. If this is a fact — and each one must prove or disprove it for himself — then every individual who sincerely endeavors, in the privacy of his own aspirations, to make of himself an instrument of helpfulness is contributing his share, not alone to the benefit of his fellow man but to the sustenance of those unseen hierarchs of sacrifice who are humanity's greatest benefactors.
An old cycle is closing and a new one is finding birth, as is expressed in these lines of British playwright Christopher Fry in his verse-drama, "A Sleep of Prisoners":
The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The affairs of the times are indeed soul size and the resulting pressure is immense, with no foreseeable let-up in sight. But rather than fear the reverberations of change, let us welcome them as harbingers of the spring to come. This is our era's opportunity, and there is no call for dejection. People everywhere are responding openly to the high new force seeking entry. We must take "the longest stride of soul men ever took."
If we keep this broad picture in mind when the reckoning of former wrong "comes up to face us," we shall realize that the rise and fall of civilizations are but minute ripples on the totality of mankind's greater destiny.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 2000/ January 2001; copyright © 2000 Theosophical University Press)