The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
January 2013 – Vol. 15 Issue 11
Another year is beginning, and this turning point provides a natural opportunity to pause for a moment and take a searching look at ourselves and the direction in which we are going. Each one has drawn to himself different experiences, different opportunities, and whatever they may have been, hopefully we are each a little wiser, a little more under-standing, a little more aware of our reason for being, than before. Yet in penetrating more deeply into the harvest of events, there is not one among us, I imagine, who does not feel at least a tinge of discouragement and frustration over the demands of life in these times of intense activity and pressures, and our inadequacy in handling them as we would like.
In this connection a small incident occurred that had a profound effect on me, bringing fresh insight into the need to develop more patience with ourselves and others and to recognize this quality in its various aspects as vital in nature’s total scheme. I was visiting my husband’s mother, almost 90 years old, at the convalescent hospital, and happened to mention my restlessness over a problem that had continued so long and showed no evidence of change. She looked at me and said: “It will resolve itself. Just give it time. Have you ever noticed how, after a rain, the drops cling to the leaves? I was observing them today. They seem to be suspended forever, and suddenly, when the right moment comes, they fall, sometimes singly, sometimes many at once.” I was touched by the wisdom of her response, and it suggested to me the beautiful passage from Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”
These words carry one’s thinking out from the mundane to the universal, from the narrow confines of personal concerns and limitations to the broad perspective of our majestic and ordered cosmos, whose laws and their operations bring all things to come about at the right moment and in the way that the particular circumstance calls forth. This inner timing we share with all of nature, quite separate from the ticking clock and its demands. It is the pulsing heart of life, infallible in its constancy. But to follow this timing in spite of endless crosscurrents – this is and will ever be our human challenge. When a farmer starts a crop, he begins at the appropriate season and allows the seeds long intervals to sprout and grow at their gradual pace. But with human difficulties and decisions, we forget that we, too, are part of nature, and despite minds and emotions that often lead us precipitously into unwise actions, we must allow time to do its quiet work.
Like the raindrop that clings to the leaf and yet must be released from it in order to fall, so there is a paradox here involving a holding on and a letting go: letting go of preconceived notions of how things or people should be, and holding on to one’s true perceptions in order to be open and tuned to what each day’s events are really saying. Continual changes are taking place in various phases of our natures comparable in some ways to the seasons. There may outwardly appear to be a fallow period in one area or another, while inwardly some much needed spadework may be going on in readiness for a new round of experience. It is not easy to stand by and know a fellow human is undergoing inner trial; yet just being aware, can be a silent support. For every one of us it is essentially a lonely road. We cannot experience for another, for each one has the right to find his or her own way; nor can we unduly hasten the process of growth in ourselves, for we each have our own tempo, our own inner cycles and inherent qualities which are uniquely ours, and must be respected.
Inner growth takes place naturally, unassumingly, in the silent recesses of our being. Gradually, imperceptibly, we add to our reservoir of strength and wisdom until ultimately we will be able to meet whatever comes with serenity and fortitude. Everything in nature tells the same story of measured ways – “the noiseless, patient spider” tirelessly spinning its web, the gradual unfolding of a flower bud, the stately procession of the celestial hosts, or the simple raindrop awaiting its time to fall to the ground. – Ingrid Van Mater
Our greatest hope lies in the fact that Truth does exist. Through the millennia it has come down to us like a river whose source is in the Unknown. At times its current flows strong and clear over the surface of the earth, enriching human hearts. At other times, not finding a channel of receptive minds, it disappears and moves quietly underground, and the soil it once made fertile lies fallow. But always the river flows.
How has this "wisdom of the ages" been passed down to us? Has it not been through the lives and works of the great teachers of the past – Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Confucius, Lao-tzu, Plato, and others? Each of them labored with one end in view: to revive in human consciousness a recognition of our divine potential and to restate the spiritual values embedded in the sacred traditions of antiquity. Each one, in his own way, helped the river of Truth to flow anew in the fields of human endeavor . . . – James A. Long
Love is ever seeking to express itself in our lives. At the same time we are faced with the reality of discord and malice in human life. How can we create harmony in ourselves and in the world around us? William Q. Judge advised: “Be what you love. Strive after what you find beautiful and high, and let the rest go. Harmony, sacrifice, devotion: express them everywhere and in the highest possible way.” Through imagination, consciously or unconsciously used, we conform ourselves to whatever we focus on. We tend to emulate whatever appeals strongly to us because our psychological nature is plastic and impressionable. Therefore it is particularly important to be careful about where we habitually center our mental and emotional energies.
Transformation is notoriously difficult to achieve, largely because the law of physics that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" also applies in the psychological realm. When we decide to concentrate on what is "beautiful and high," parts of us attracted to the opposite react equally strongly against our choice, and all too often succeed in reestablishing the status quo. Fighting these contrary forces is ineffective since the more we focus on them, the more power we give them. To struggle with them is to supercharge them with life. To acknowledge and then disregard them cuts off their energy supply and loosens their hold upon us.
In striving to become more, it is vital to "let the rest go" – to release the hurts, wrongs, bitterness, disappointments and negative feelings we cherish about others and ourselves. Otherwise we are reinforcing the very energies we are trying to overcome. We certainly cannot concentrate on what we love if we are focusing on what angers or grieves us. To release our concentration from the negative aspects of ourselves and others does not trivialize events that caused these thoughts or imply that our feelings are unfounded; nor does it exonerate anyone who performed unkind or malicious actions. It simply means we do not choose to invest our energy, attention, and will along those lines. By letting go of the past, we take away its power to limit and distract us.
Attempts at external harmony, however, all too often produce an outer serenity that conceals an inner disharmony, because its peace results from a suppression of conflict or ill-feeling. True harmony reflects a profound recognition of our essential oneness with others despite inevitable disagreements. And as we obtain increasing mastery of our own unevolved aspects of mind and feeling, we contribute less and less friction and psychological pollution to our surroundings.
Certainly the grievous weight of human selfishness and ignorance sometimes makes the earth seem a veritable hell. Our treatment of each other and other living beings, our violence, cruelty, greed, and indifference, can be almost overwhelming, raising doubts about whether the human species can continue to exist if it maintains its present habits. As individuals we can counter these long-standing trends by sacrificing our lesser self, with its resentments and self-involvement, to our spiritual self, thus acting in the interest of the whole to which we belong. In this way we can lessen to some degree the poisonous atmosphere of selfishness that envelops mankind. To sacrifice is to “make holy,” and by self-sacrifice we sanctify our ordinary consciousness, raising it over time to a more universal level.
Nonetheless, to forgo justice, to meet ignorance, selfishness, and malice, with compassionate understanding instead of retaliation generally appears unrealistic and even dangerous to our day-to-day consciousness. But the results of human antipathy, aggression, and self-centeredness can be effectively counteracted by selflessness, loving kindness, and an absolute confidence in the ultimate justice of the spiritual foundation of the universe. Kindness does not imply blindness or foolishness, but rather courage to act appropriately in a situation without yielding to the demands of one's own egotism and smallness of character.
Few will practice self-sacrifice unless they are devoted to something much grander than their everyday selves. Still, once we decide to be watchful of our feelings, to strive to be the best we can imagine and let the rest go, then we do begin to embody what we wish to become and, gradually, to express it in increasing fullness. Strangely enough, following this apparently inner path effectively betters the lot of those we never meet, while influencing for good our family, co-workers, acquaintances, and surroundings – not by our deliberately setting an example, seeking to sway others, or being relentless do-gooders, but by trying to live, as naturally and completely as we can, the compassion and harmony which sustain and ennoble the universe.