Sources of Knowledge

By Elisabeth Prent
Life itself is a sublime adventure, a constant series of veils, beyond which the pilgrim passes, the one after the other. And each evolutionary initiation is a revelation in the sense of an unveiling, although strangely enough this means a re-veiling. And why? Because every time we receive a new light we are temporarily blinded by it, the increase in knowledge blinds us for the time being to all that is still higher. And we have to live through the new revelation until we learn that it is a re-veiling, and then we pass on to a higher revelation. — G. de Purucker

What we are each a pilgrim echoes from many traditions around the globe, and at the end of the journey the pilgrim expects something special: perhaps forgiveness, help in times of sorrow, pain, or illness, some kind of revelation, or an expansion of consciousness. Often people undertake hardships to reach their goal; their yearning for the promised reward makes up for privations. In any case, the impulse for starting the journey comes from within, and through participation in this journey the connection with the spiritual/divine aspects of our composite nature are fortified. The result cannot be weighed or measured, yet in ancient Egypt we find the picture of the heart of the deceased being weighed against the feather of Truth. A lighter heart reflects the individual’s thinking, speaking, and acting in accordance with his higher nature during life on earth. This allegory shows life itself as the pilgrimage — following a certain road eventually leads to a blessed state of existence. During our life we may choose to open a door leading to peace and freedom for all beings. Yet it is not so easy to find this door.

Just as we need schools and universities for our children’s general education, so through the ages there have been schools for the education and growth of our souls, for the development of our ability to awaken an understanding of our own nature and its laws. Never was mankind without help or alone on the path, but always under the guidance and instruction of teachers. According to theosophical writings, the first mystery schools were founded long ago when human beings through selfishness and egoism had lost contact with their higher nature. The founding of these schools ensured that the wisdom teachings were preserved for future generations. Each mystery school was a focus of the spiritual light which threatened to wane or go out. The teachers of these schools belonged to the hierarchy of compassion: they had sacrificed their own progress because they heard the heart cry of humanity and wanted to help relieve that pain. The method was to have each student realize what all beings are in their inmost core: divine beings, sparks of the eternal Light, children of the one Father. Once perception of their true nature had been refined, the students’ higher thinking awakened and began to lead them on the path; growth towards a harmony of thinking and acting could begin.

It was pointed out that a Teacher or Messenger or Envoy . . . is sent from the Great Brotherhood into the world of men for the purpose of striking anew a keynote of spiritual truth when an urgent and sincere call comes from the heart of mankind or from a sufficient number of human units to warrant such an appearance in the world . . . when wickedness and moral decay are in the ascendancy among men, then . . . an especial effort is made by the Great Brotherhood to inaugurate at least the beginning of a period of spiritual fertility . . . — G. de Purucker, The Esoteric Tradition 2:1057

Throughout human history messengers have appeared when the longing for a connection with the higher parts of our nature is sincere and true. The primal impulse for this connection lies within us because we would like to drink from the Source in order to bring to flower the seed sleeping in our heart with the help of a teacher. The teacher cannot carry out the task for us, but can provide signposts for coping with our many problems and for eventually overcoming them. Just as fertile ground combined with the gardener’s diligence allows each seed to bring forth flowers of special scent, color, and beauty, so the teacher like a gardener can help foster the growth of the human soul. Such a teacher may appear in different forms: as a buddha, an avatara like Jesus or Krishna, a tulku, mahatma, or other messenger. We also find various scriptures dating back to some great teacher which may bring inspiration and instruction into our lives. But every success on the path depends only on the determined will of each individual to start working independently and to put their feet on the first rung of the ladder.

The initiative to start successfully along the path lies within ourselves, all else are impulses from without to stimulate and support our own self-directed growth if we have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” The field for our work is daily life, all the small duties turning up from morning to night — at home, in the office, with neighbors, and with those we meet “accidentally” along the road. The challenges are manifold: How can I help, how can I be compassionate, brotherly? How do I behave to be pure of heart? Hints and instructions about how to gain insight into these truths can be found in all cultures. For example, in the Dhammapada the Buddha says:

Those who take the non-real for the real and the real for the non-real and thus fall victims to erroneous notions, never reach the essence of reality.
Having realized the essential as the essential and the nonessential as the nonessential, they by thus following correct thinking attain the essential.

The Tao Te Ching advises:

Act without action, assert non-assertion, find the taste in the tasteless, treat the small as great and the few as many. Requite injuries with good deeds. Deal with the hard while it is still easy, and the great while it is still small. The most difficult things originate in the easy, and the largest issues in what is small. Therefore the Sage never has to deal with the great, and so achieves greatness. — ch. 63

And all over the world we find expressions of the Golden Rule: do to others as you would have them do to you.

World scriptures and traditions explain how acting ethically may become a bridge leading from our lower nature to an ever fuller understanding of our higher nature, from the transitory to the lasting, from the false to the true, from darkness to light, from the personal to the impersonal, from being driven by earthly desires to distinguishing between good and evil, from a life focused on sensations to a balanced state in which the opposite poles are given their due places, the lower nature becoming the servant of the higher.

(From Sunrise magazine, Winter 2007; copyright © 2006 Theosophical University Press)

Spiritual Path Menu

Sometimes it is in the smallest things that we find solace, that we discover greatness. “As above, so below” expresses the Hermetic universal law of analogy. We see the great in the small and the small in the great. A candle or a star — each carries a flame toward the future and lights our way. In the swirl of drain water descending we see the image of a galaxy forming.
Flower in a crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower — but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
                    — Alfred, Lord Tennyson
As we journey through our lives we pass innumerable “things.” We encounter countless images, from the huge to the infinitesimal. All these come from one Life, from one Source. They are clues which trigger us to ask the larger questions; signposts for us to stop and wonder at the unity and harmony inherent in all things.— S.J.O.