As Little Children

By James A. Long

In the Christian scriptures we read that the Master Jesus said: "Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." A statement so simple that for years and years we have failed to give it the attention it merits.

To whom was he speaking? To little children? To boys and girls? Not at all. He was speaking to adults, those who had problems both material and spiritual, and who had come to the Master for help. He knew their struggles, and he saw in their faces exactly what anyone may see today in the faces of men and women everywhere.

In times of crisis we become so caught up with the current of the moment that we lose sight of the fact that the immediate situation is only one point in a long series of situations, the culmination of years, perhaps lifetimes. Not recognizing that, we lose perspective and cut ourselves off from the value of those past experiences which, if understood, would help us resolve our dilemma. So, blinded by confusion, we think we are being imposed upon, not only by others but by life itself. As a result, we blame everybody else -- our neighbors, our business associates, maybe even our family and close friends, or the government, the world, anything -- but ourselves. That is what Jesus must have seen in the eyes of those to whom he spoke those words. How clouded was their consciousness, how many thick veils they had allowed to be built between what they were when the Master saw them, and what they were as children.

All of us have made our lives difficult beyond need. For millennia we have prided ourselves on our learning, our erudition, our understanding of truth. And yet the teachers of the race have ever reminded mankind that the heart-doctrine is to be preferred to the eye-doctrine: the learning that is native to the heart, the intuition, the spiritual will of man, rather than the learning that is purely intellectual and motivated by the human will. Can't we realize that the enigmas of life are solved not by mere reason, but by intuition; not by sentimentality, but by judgment?

Those of us who love children are astounded at the pure intuition they express, amazed at times at their clear perception. Everyone knows that the hardest questions to answer are those asked by the very little ones, who uncannily go right to the core of the basic issues that often confound the world's philosophers. And we will never satisfy our children by using reason or sentiment alone; but how their eyes sparkle when we appeal to their innate intuition and judgment.

Why then did the Master urge his followers to become as little ones if they would attain the kingdom of heaven? Did he want them to return to childish pranks, and to act and think literally as children? Certainly not. He was appealing to that quality which was like unto the child. Let us look at ourselves today. What happens to us as we grow up? We go through school, perhaps university if we are fortunate. We begin to feel as though we are learning a great deal. But what do we do with that learning, whether it is scholastic or practical, religious or scientific? In many cases, we merely file it away in our minds for possible later use. This process goes on for years and, as a result, when we are confronted with real decisions, when we are plunged into the maelstrom of life's vicissitudes, what do we do? In our anxious state, and even after sober reflection, we attempt to pull out of our mental filing cabinet those things which we think will solve our problem, only to find that they do not solve it at all, either to the satisfaction of ourselves or to others who may be involved.

Now why? If we had stored the value of each experience in our heart, in the permanent part of our consciousness, then when we are brought face to face with serious matters, instead of trying to worry out the answers with our mind, we would discover that the heart, having taken over, would quite naturally lead us to the right solutions. The intuition then would have become our guide, and the mind its obedient servant, the implementor of its directives -- not its master.

It might seem a most onerous task for those of us who are older and have made many mistakes, perhaps even grave ones, to become in a short time like a child. But that is not the case. The Master Jesus knew it was not too hard or he would not have admonished the people of his day to do just that. And especially is it possible once a man has determined to give his life in service.

Let us ask ourselves this simple question: what is the foundation in the child's consciousness that allows his intuition and judgment to operate so beautifully? He is freshly arrived from another shore. And at his tender age he is unencumbered by an awareness of his past or his future, so that he has a truly virgin consciousness with which to prepare for the experiences ahead. He has come into life, as Wordsworth so graphically phrased it, "trailing clouds of glory."

What does the child bring with him most of all? It is trust -- that genuine foundation upon which the spiritual growth of the world must be built. What human being who has any love in his heart cannot recognize that implicit trust in the eyes of a child who newly looks upon a world and his parents as greater than himself, to whom he can always turn? But as he goes through life, he finds less and less trust in the hearts of those with whom he must associate. As a result, he becomes confused, maybe even bitter.

To become as little children! There is a simple way of doing this which has been the same all down the ages: Man, know thyself! That injunction was not new to those who worshiped at the temple of Apollo, or who listened for and believed in the oracles of ancient Greece. It is timeless, as potent today as when first enunciated. The only way we can know ourselves is to search our consciousness. If we can do this honestly, we will stop blaming others for our trials. But we are so cluttered up with our filing system of mental facts, which we are so fond of, that we cannot break through to our hearts where intuition and help reside. Once we determine to face ourselves and assume the full responsibility of our circumstances, then the gods stoop down to help, at unexpected times, through unexpected persons, and in unexpected ways. This is an inviolable law and offers the foundation in fact of the famous expression of Hercules to the wagoner: "Put your shoulder to the wheel; the gods help those who help themselves." Until we become as little children we shall never attain that state of consciousness where we feel the full value and help of the spiritual forces that protect mankind.

  • (From Expanding Horizons by James A. Long. Copyright © 1965 by Theosophical University Press)

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