Spirit in Crisis

By H. Oosterink

Originally published by Theosophical University Press in 1946.


Preface, by Dr. H. Groot


I -- The Antithesis

II -- The Boundless and the Self

III -- The Way to the Boundless

IV -- Meditation

Dedicated to the memory of my dear wife and to my teacher G. de P.

1. The sage has no invariable mind of his own; he makes the mind of the people his mind.
2. To those who are good (to me) I am good; and to those who are not good (to me), I am also good; -- and thus (all) get to be good.
To those who are sincere (with me), I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere (with me), I am also sincere; -- and thus (all) get to be sincere.
3. The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all. The people all keep their eyes and ears directed to him, and he deals with them all as his children. -- Laotse, Tao Teh King (Translated by James Legge, The Sacred Books of the East.)


The author of this book, who asked me to introduce this work to the reader, knows that I comply with his request not only on account of the sincere friendship that binds us, but especially because I, just like him, hold the view that the thoughts developed in this book are of the greatest importance to our disabled world, which is looking for guidance in its restoration and reconstruction.

The book places before its readers a curious paradox.

It was begun as an almost desperate attempt of the individual to keep his foothold in the sudden rapid flow of the events of time, which dragged with it so many reliable and seemingly well-founded certainties. The author who saw the world totter about him, wondered whether nothing that was really valuable and full of sense would remain. In the whirligig of the outward facts and events of the horrible war years he turned towards his own inward self, and tried to ascertain if there perhaps the stability and certainty were to be found which had appeared to be a delusion in outward life. So the plan of the book might be called subjective and personal.

Moreover, there was no small danger that the book might degenerate into a flight from reality to a dream-world which would have few or no points of contact with daily life.

However, this danger was always distinctly present to the author's mind, and he immediately declares: "This book is no flight from reality."

No, its object, on the contrary, is to make use of reality -- however hideously it might present itself as of a fixed point of support, on which the ladder of a higher spiritual consciousness can safely rest.

The author does not want to disguise or ignore the world-picture, but to grow above it by fixing his eyes upon that which is the timeless background of the eternal circle of creation, existence, decay -- a circle which forms the only reality with which our senses can bring us into contact.

However, how many people know and acknowledge the existence of this timeless background?

Large is the number of those who regard as an idle game of fancy, a beautiful but unreal dream, everything that is beyond sensory perception and not limited by time, space and mechanistic causality. To them the author says: "I do not write about unreal things. They are not far or strange." And indeed, he who allows the ever rising flight of thoughts to act upon him, will come to the conclusion that this book deals not with unrealities, but with the most essential core of man.

And this is the paradox: the subjective, personal plan leads to views in which all personal experiences are raised to the level of the intimate union of man and man, nay, even of man and cosmos. Thus, the book ends in an emancipating statement, devoid of any personal sorrow or personal struggle, but which breathes quietude, and the certainty of him in whom sorrow as well as happiness have been transformed into a higher insight: "Though we seem separate beings, we form together the tissue of the universal consciousness; it pervades us, it raises us, it binds us. We are the facets through which the light shines in various colors and shades, in variegated diversity."

May this book, which comes straight from the author's heart, come into the hands of many searching, tired and mourning people, who have lost their way in the chaos of conflicting experiences in which the often cruel reality placed them; they will be able to find in it what is more than the opiate of consolation -- emancipating insight. -- H. Groot


In the treasure-chamber of our life we find images, mind-images, ideas born in quiet hours of meditation.
Consciousness directed to the invisible worlds of a higher, spiritual existence has attracted these images like a magnet: images still clothed in the splendor native to these worlds. The artist who calls forth these images in our minds, the sculptor who conjures them up, is the Spirit. From the formless and wordless beauty of the soul they take shape within us, as the fruit of golden hours passed in quiet meditation which raised us above the grievous experiences of our everyday life.
We all have such a wealth of images hidden within us. In this book I give you mine for contemplation. Perhaps one of these images will strike you and you will take it aside and consider it with greater attention.
What remained speechless in me may then penetrate into your mind, and things for which I found no words may become clear to you.

This book was written during the war. I have set down my thoughts in it as they came to me and took shape in a time when our resistance and power, more than ever before, had to be found in ourselves and not in the world about us. In fact, the losses sustained made it necessary for me to express my spiritual possessions in words, and I wanted to test their value in these disturbed years. Therefore I wrote, as one who keeps a diary, until my thoughts began to mature and raised me above the gripping events of those stirring times.

That's why this book does not contain abstract reflections, as if the author, standing outside life itself, wanted to escape reality.

The circumstances gave little opportunity for this. But while writing I kept in mind that life has not only an outward form, but also a soul, a background from which outward life rises, from which it originates and matures. He who penetrates into the soul of life, sees life in its entirety.

I mentioned the events of the war only in passing -- how much happened in those days! -- but the greater part of what I wrote down counterbalanced the fear and sorrow that fell to our share.

Though the war-events and the terror that attended them were cruel and horrible, however hard the facts might be that we had to accept -- I had to look further -- to look behind the facts, for the source from which they sprang, to find the solution of all contradictions which bewildered me, in the unity and the harmony of the passing and the everlasting. I could only find this solution by looking at the facts around me in the light of our boundless existence.

Harmony -- not the attitude of the man who, in isolation, shrinks into himself and leaves the world as it is. He who isolates himself does not understand that life flows from one source, that the great life reflects itself in each creature and in all creatures, and that this fact ties us more firmly together than we accept as a rule.

No seclusion, but on the contrary, a stronger unity with our suffering fellow-men, when we find each other again and recognize each other in the unity of the spirit from which we all originate and which we are. This thought -- the unity of life -- defines the sphere of our hearts and our love from man to man.

It is as if the facts and events looked upon in this light take on another meaning, as if they dissolve and lose their cruelty because we have thus traced them to their starting-point.

In this way my thoughts deepened and matured into the pages of this book. It raised a spiritual power and certainty within me, which widely surpassed the influence of the chaotic world around me, bent on self-destruction; and it gave me the power to rise above it.

It freed me from a burden which otherwise I should not have been able to bear, and it did more: it kept my heart open for the love of humanity, which I did not want to lose at any price.


That which is human in us protests against an attitude of resignation, and justly so, for he who accepts unthinkingly has adopted a negative attitude towards life. But he who adopts this attitude of resignation coupled with the idea of an eternal absolute existence -- an insight into the substance and essence of all things -- will view life from a different angle.

He sees and sees through the interconnection of the things that take place around him -- and the causes from which they spring. This idea leads him to the realization that all is well.

He who sees life in this way, does not escape from reality; on the contrary, he lives in the midst of life as it is, but a life that rises above the level of him who cannot see beyond the appearance of things.

Many people are so much fascinated by everything which takes place around them that they forget the connection between the temporary and the eternal. The stream of life carries them along and they do not find in themselves any power for reflection and rest.

The endless misery that surrounds us every day, the interminable sorrow we meet wherever we go, have filled the hearts of many with bitterness. They ask themselves passionately why all these things happen. They want to know why people treat each other so cruelly.

Airplanes roar along the night sky bent on devastation and death. Tanks and flame-throwers, guns and submarines do their destructive work. People delight in torturing each other psychically and physically; prisons and concentration camps are crowded, and the horrible persecution of innocent citizens continues.

Reproachfully they say: you speak of higher spheres in which our spirit is invulnerable, of vast fields of consciousness and of the justice of cosmic laws.

But we want to know how we can live in peace on earth, we want to build a better community here below.

To them I would say: "What else is society but a reflection of our inner self, a projection of what we really are?" We built up this community together, we unchained this storm. The outbursts of hatred were caused by tensions of our own making, which culminated in war and revolution. The atrocities we see about us are only their results.

If our economic systems are wrong, their injustice originates from ourselves.

If man wants to create a better world, man must change himself, and he changes only through self-directed growth.

And this growth begins when man realizes who and what he is, when he allows himself to be affected by the powers of his soul, when he awakens himself and manifests what we call the beauty of the spirit. This is done by focusing all our thoughts on the spiritual splendor within ourselves, in other words by meditation.

A meditative life, a contemplative frame of mind does not lead us to a dream-world, nor does it mean an escape into other worlds; meditation may open up a real world, a world from which we can draw the power and certainty to overcome the difficulties of outward life that threaten to crush us.

Like the sunbeams which, touching the unruffled surface of a mountain lake, penetrate to the bottom, the light of the spirit illuminates the mind and heart of the man who sees life from a quiet and reflective standpoint.

When the storms of life rouse our emotions, carry us off and get a hold on us, we live helplessly in the shadows of a lightless existence.

The efforts to become conscious of our highest essence involve a continuous contact with the spiritual side of life; the raising of our consciousness, an escape from the psychomagnetic attraction that originates from the sphere of low desires and strife, of hatred and false notions in which we daily live. Then we begin to experience an unassailable peace in ourselves, in spite of the influences that daily life exercises upon us. And thus, if people could only be induced to adopt this reflective attitude towards life, a new community, a spiritual brotherhood would be the result, binding all people together in love -- love of mankind -- an expression that is hardly ever heard nowadays.

People lack love. It is a spiritual poverty that is worse than material misery. Material poverty is its outcome.

There is a spiritual injustice that is worse than any social injustice. Social injustice results from it, it is secondary. Let us then look for the primary causes and open our eyes to the world of the spirit by introspection; and when our eyes have opened, let us go to meet outward life with a word of love and understanding, ready to give a reply to the vital questions that are tormenting mankind, and to soften their grief.

Laotse as well as Jesus lived in a time that was as dark as the days in which we are living, and yet at their appearance a spiritual light was diffused in the hearts of men, and their lofty conception of life brought to millions a consolation they badly needed in their worst afflictions.

Forms disappear, life passes and destroys them, but above this passing life is the immortal eternal spirit, immutable, embracing and inspiring all alike, a light that shines forever.

Brotherhood, love of man for man -- in spite of social, cultural or spiritual differences, in spite of all sectarianism -- is the only basis for a just community.

We see a community of all sorts of living entities engaged in a struggle among themselves, with an urge to self-preservation, including those people who regard only their outward appearance as the "man" and want of living entities engaged in a struggle among themselves, with an urge to self-preservation, including those people who regard only their outward appearance as the "man" and want to maintain it. But according as one increasingly realizes that man is more than his form, and as this realization finally leads him to the conviction that behind the outward life there lives the spirit from which the world of phenomena originates and by which it is inspired, all antitheses and divisions will find a solution in the recognition of one powerful unity of life, in which there is no place for separateness. He who realizes this knows the all-embracing love which makes us see ourselves in any other creature.

Religion is a form in which religious man expresses his devotion to the supreme; what I have been looking for and have committed to paper is not the form, but the essence, the continuously renewed discovery of spiritual life, the holy joy flaming up from a growing realization of what man really is, an approach to, a closer contact with our true Self -- a penetration into the Kingdom of God, within ourselves.


A few words must be added to this introduction: This book is not written in a simple form. But if the reader will take the trouble himself, or together with others -- to think about what I have tried to express, the reading of this book may give him the same joy that I experienced when writing it; perhaps it will raise him above the grief that befell him, just as the writing of it helped me in finding myself again and gave me the power to rise above this world of hatred and sorrow.


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