A Mahatma endowed with power over space, time, mind, and matter, is a possibility just because he is a perfected man. Every human being has the germ of all the powers attributed to these great Initiates, the difference lying solely in the fact that we have in general not developed what we possess the germ of, while the Mahatma has gone through the training and experience which have caused all the unseen human powers to develop in him, and conferred gifts that look god-like to his struggling brother below. — W. Q. Judge
Two things are involved in the development of spiritual powers. First, we must understand ourselves, then comprehend the universe of which we are a part. It is the same with any student. He who would research in a scientific laboratory must begin by learning the theory and then how to use the equipment with which to conduct experiments.
No door opens without the right key. The knowledge of our own constitution, of our own capacities and powers, is the key which will unlock the door to the inner worlds of being lying within and behind and beyond the physical world. Here is the meaning of the expression "self-directed evolution." The world lags in its evolution, suffering and confusion prevail, because for so long we have been taught to look outside ourselves for strength and spiritual wisdom.
Within lie all the wisdom and potencies of the universe. The urge to evolution through self-expression and experience does not come from blind physical nature. It comes from our own higher self, and only within ourselves can we find the knowledge and power to achieve the aims of evolution. Without our own vision, willpower, and courage we could never get anywhere. A child can be helped and guided by parents and teachers, but only it can make itself walk, eat, study, or use its physical and mental faculties.
Self-directed evolution puts into our own hands the science of self-knowledge. In light of the seven basic elements of our constitution, it gives us the spiritual laws by which we can understand, control, and direct these elements. Only we ourselves can apply this knowledge in our daily lives to bring about a higher and quicker evolution of our own natures. Therefore the student no longer looks outside of himself for the strength to accomplish this, but becomes his own savior, powerful enough at last to make of himself a god in human form. Did not Jesus say: "Greater things than these shall ye do" and "the kingdom of God is within you" — thus pointing the way to the spiritual basis of self-directed evolution?
Some of the highest forms of spiritual powers exist even now in all of us. There is the creative imagination, the power to visualize what we want or need or wish to do, and then give it form and direction. Successful business people inevitably possess this power, as do artists and scientists. Everyone has it in some degree, and it can be developed in ourselves. Katherine Tingley wrote:
Visualize! Visualize! You touch a mystic law when you create in imagination the picture of mighty things, for you open a door to new powers within yourself. . . . If you aspire, visualize your aspirations. Make a mind-picture of your spiritual ideals, a picture of the spiritual life as you know it to be, and carry that picture with you day by day. . . . Before you know it the ideal has become the real and you have taken your place as a creator, truly, in the great, divine scheme of life. — Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic, pp. 46-7
Another great power most people possess is willpower. Without a strong and active will the creative imagination is useless. Let us emphasize the spiritual will, for the personal will, actuated as it often is by selfish desires and narrow interest, will not get us far. It too often results in a form of mere willfulness that may injure others and make difficult karma for the person himself. Personal will cannot serve in the inner spiritual realms of nature, but must first be purified and made impersonal. Only then does it become a spiritual power, trained and actuated by impersonal love.
The spiritual essence at the center of us, the root of being, is the same in every creature. It is therefore universal, common to all things. Through the highest aspect of soul, the cosmic self is stepped down to the individual thinker. People need to visualize their spiritual nature and aspire to it. Until they have felt in their hearts the throb and thrill of the universal spirit, they cannot understand and practice impersonal love. For example, it is comparatively easy to love and sacrifice for our own children, but much more difficult to work for the well-being or happiness of all other people. So begins impersonal love, and when we have expanded our love and sense of responsibility to the whole world, sacrificing the personal to the spiritual will, we become gradually incapable of harming any living creature.
The thoughtful seeker will admit that such genuinely practiced thought and action demands an intense, continuous, and arduous self-training, but its rewards are beyond price. We lose all fear for ourselves, all worry over our own success. We acquire a broader wisdom in all the relationships and circumstances of life, because we are bringing the universal light to illumine our minds and hearts. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and "all these things" shall be added unto us.
Perhaps we may make a picture that will give us a clearer idea of such a state of being. Think of one who for a lifetime has lived in a narrow shut-in valley, but as old age approaches gets the idea to see what the world is really like. He determines to climb the mountains that hem his valley in. After great labor he reaches the almost inaccessible peaks. For the first time he sees the earth spread before his gaze — its plains and valleys, rivers and forests, its mighty cities. Overhead stretches the immensity of the sky where at night he sees a whole universe of wheeling suns and the far-scattered constellations of the Milky Way. It is a magnificent revelation to his dazzled eyes and to his mind that had never been able to think beyond the narrow valley where he lived so long. For the first time he begins to understand the nature of the world at large.
So with the human soul. Dwelling for long in the dark and narrow limitations of the personality, but at last aspiring through awakened imagination, it turns to the mountain peaks of the Mystic East. Calling upon all its powers of strength and endurance, it toils long and often painfully upward. Then at last this soul can stand upon the inner heights of its own spiritual nature, seeing and understanding what a different universe it is from the one seen before from the dark, narrow valley.
So the mahatma too stands at last at a summit of his own universe, where he has brought himself by the use of creative imagination and spiritual will. Having finally allied himself with the universal soul of nature, all its many realms — spiritual, psychological, psychic, astral, and physical — lie before him like an open book. The forces of occult nature are now his to use. Through the powers attained by this slow upward progress, he can employ these forces of occult nature to produce phenomena that to the ignorant seem like miracles. They are in fact only an enlightened and impersonally directed use of these powerful and hidden energies of nature. Better still, he now sees clearly the causes of human misery and has the ability to help.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2001; copyright © 2001 Theosophical University Press)
Let us make room for the light! That is the whole meaning of our cosmic pilgrimage: to let the light grow stronger in us, so that we, in turn, may radiate light and warmth to all others. This road within is not bound to theories, dogmas, or rituals. It is a way of thinking that becomes purer, nobler, and more universal with the increasing ability to perceive. Therefore, let us not wish for better systems of learning, but for a more perfected way of living, for the ability to be of genuine help to our fellowmen. No rules or doctrines of whatever nature can be more essential than a life permeated with the spirit of compassion. — Ernst Neubert