Helen Keller described herself at the age of seven as a child blind and deaf, her mind unawakened, and knowing such utter frustration that her reactions were disturbed and often violent. Intelligence was there, fighting for birth, and through the services of a wise and dedicated teacher she was shown a way to give it expression. The result was a completely transformed and ennobled human being.
We can imagine that the human race could have passed through a similar experience in the far past when mind had not begun to function and humanity had not yet realized self-consciousness. Mind was there within, but it was latent, sleeping. Recently a friend remarked that Rodin's sculpture, "The Thinker," for her symbolized the time when mind first began to awaken in man and he found himself confused and puzzled in the new world he was entering. Now another faculty is struggling for birth and, as it gradually becomes more dominant, we are sometimes as disturbed and bewildered by this inward pressure as was Helen Keller. Restless and baffled, we may strike out blindly at all restraints when, in truth, we are standing on the threshold of a comparable, though broader, expansion of understanding. I think we will admit that many "restraints" are for our own good; we but need to discriminate among them, rooting out those based on error or upheld simply by custom, and to remember that growth requires time.
What is this new faculty that is seeking a more active role in our natures? Some call it cosmic or spiritual consciousness, the wisdom of the higher self, the inner Christos or light of buddhi. Like intellect, it manifests in all grades and degrees and includes intuition, spiritual insight, and vision. Just as our thoughts and reasoning can be misleading, so too can this new quality when not understood. Helen Keller was most fortunate in having a knowledgeable teacher of high ethics to train her young mind; but we individually have to choose whether by means of our increasing inner scope and power we shall transform ourselves into wise and truly human beings, or use this emerging ability with its many ramifications merely for our own well-being.
Self-consciousness, which came with mind, threw the spotlight on the personal self; spiritual consciousness, which comes with intuition, throws the spotlight on mankind as a unity. The stress is on brotherhood, on sharing, on compassion and accord. It involves our becoming, not with the background theme "for myself," but with the perceptive leitmotif "for the good of all." In this subtle changeover of consciousness from the physical-human to the human-spiritual, we are becoming stronger as individuals, yet we feel a compelling urge to be in harmony with others. The desire for closer fraternal bonds is surging through hearts all over the world and will not be denied. For it is inherent in the inner qualities beginning to stir in us. However, in trying to attain so desirable and fruitful a goal, we must exercise great care to safeguard the individual, for growth is an area we alone control and no one else. If we can manage to bring about unity in diversity without losing sight of the dignity and importance of the single human being, we shall discover we have in the making a spiritually-oriented civilization that offers not only the hope of survival but the surety of enlightened progress.
(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 2005; copyright © 2005 Theosophical University Press)
There are seasons in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. These are periods when to dare is the highest wisdom. — William Ellery Channing