The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
January 2004 Vol. 6 Issue 11
The Romans thought of New Year as Janus Two-face – one looking to the past, the other to the future. He was one of the holiest, indeed the oldest, of the gods. In a hymn of the Salii – "the dancers" – he was venerated as the "god of gods," the "good creator," "the beginning of all things." The Salii were an ancient priesthood, and Janus was known before Romulus, legendary founder of Rome. He is now regarded as having been a sky god or even the universe itself. As a god of light and the sun, he "opened the gates of heaven" in the morning, and "closed them on returning" at night. So later on, he became the god of beginnings and endings, the originator of all life, especially human. His day was January 1, and this was officially designated in 153 B.C. as the opening of the year. Later still, his day was January 3, and afterward January 9. But January was his month. Benevolence, kindness, altruism, were to prevail on his day; all disturbances, quarrels, arguments to be avoided.
In the beginning when the sun was lit
The maze of things was marshalled to a dance,
Deep in us lie forgotten strains of it,
Like obsolete, charmed sleepers of romance.
And we remember, when on thrilling strings
And hollow flutes the heart of midnight burns,
The heritage of splendid, moving things
Descends on us, and the old power returns. – Quoted by Jane Harrison: Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion
This "old power" is the spiritual renewal within nature and therefore ourselves, as the process of creativity moves spirally through the years. New forms of self-expression arise from the ashes of many deaths, and at the threshold of the yearly rebirth we can make our resolutions firmer, our endeavors more determined. If we merely verbalize them, we miss their tidal currents, for these impulses flow from the pure spring within the human being – the inner self who is the real entity enlivening the outer person. What a perfect symbol of this is the flower! Its beauty emerges from the mysterious heart of life whose effects we see about us but whose driving cause remains invisible to our present sight.
It is not the failing to achieve our aspirations that matters. Every determined retrieval of effort is a renewal similar to the burgeoning of new growth after the quiescence of winter. Outwardly somnolent, inwardly there is the intense preparation for the coming spurt of fresh manifestations out of the potential locked up in the heart of all beings. The resurgence begins, strangely enough, with the winter solstice, when the solar influences upon earth begin quietly their re-flow, gathering momentum until the peak period is reached at the summer solstice.
Born of starstuff and cosmic forces, mankind has in potential the sum and substance of the universe: he is its child, and just as he is ensouled, so is his parent.
Janus Two-face is an incentive to us to leave the dead selves of past endeavors and face the sun of the new day and the new year. – Michael Cosser
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. . . . To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. – Albert Einstein
The Bhagavad-Gita Book Circle will conclude on Thursday, January 8, 7:30-8:45 pm, at Newport Way Library, 14250 SE Newport Way, Bellevue. We will read and discuss the last chapter, 18, and think back over the book as a whole. This will be the final meeting in this series.
Directions to Newport Way Library. From I-90: Take exit 11A to 150th, turn right onto 150th, go up the hill and turn right onto Newport Way at traffic light. The library is a short distance on the right-hand side, visible from Newport Way. Turn right onto 142nd SE and then right into parking lot. From I-405: Take the I-90 exit East, then follow the directions above. A map and directions are available online at www.kcls.org/npw/direct.cfm.
Beginning this month, the discussion group will start at 7:30 and end at 8:45 pm. Our topic is "Inner Peace in Outer Chaos." We will be discussing such questions as: What is the cause of turmoil and discord in our lives? Do they originate outside of us or within us? Are we part of a chaotic universe? Should we accept circumstances and people as they are, or seek to change and control them? What about ourselves and our attitudes, feelings, and responses? What are some of the pathways to finding inner peace and harmony? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The most difficult problems we as human beings have to face lie, I think, not so much in our more violent instincts and impulses and passions, but rather in the subtle energies of our being which steal upon us unawares and capture us by storm, as it were. Every human being as an entity may be considered as having three fundamental inherent qualities, which the ancient Hindus called respectively tamas, rajas, and sattwa. The tamasa qualities are they which may be called the negative qualities. The rajasa qualities are they which may be called the violent passions, the strong and unruly elements of our constitution. The sattwika qualities are they which are the most subtle of all the three classes perhaps, and although standing highest in serial order, they are also the qualities or energies or parts of our constitution which are the most difficult self-consciously to control because the most difficult to understand.
For instance, a person can fail from a good or sattwika impulse just as readily as he can fall from submission to a rajasa or violently passional impulse. As a matter of fact, the most difficult things to conquer in our character are the good parts of us. Is not this a strange paradox? It all means that a person must be completely master of himself, not partially master. He must not allow even his will, or his judgment, or his discrimination – the higher part of himself – to be led astray by his good impulses. He must not do good things unwisely, for any amount of mischief can be caused by unwise action even when trying to do good deeds.
It is the little things which often are very important. It is often the negative, passive side of our character which leads us astray. Indolence is an instance in point. I have much more hope for someone who is violent in his feelings, violent in his instincts, even violent in his actions, than I have for someone who is drunken with spiritual self-satisfaction or who is sunken in absolute ethical sleep. And, finally, I am most afraid of the person whose instincts are themselves good, whose impulses are aspiring upwards, but who does not understand himself properly. Such a one, though advancing rapidly, is nevertheless always in trouble, always in hot water. Always misunderstanding others, he is himself always misunderstood.
Now I would like to say a word about these usual expressions which are so common not only in theosophical literature but in the literature of the world – struggle, fighting, battling – the figures of speech of the battlefield or of the prize-ring. They are very customary in all parts of the world. But I very much question whether victory – to use the same line of thought – is not more easily gained by not struggling and battling and fighting. You see possibly how dangerous this remark might sound to those who do not correctly grasp the thought.
I believe that the way to win is to win by love, by kindness, by impersonality. I believe that the best way to overcome the lower nature is not by battling it and fighting it, thus exercising it and making it strong and vigorous, but by understanding it to be a part of yourself and by resolutely putting it in its proper place with inflexible and impersonal kindness and gentleness. Sometimes, and very often indeed, the best way to begin to do this is by completely ignoring it, turning one's back upon it.
I have often seen men and women who obviously have passed their lives in fighting themselves, battling themselves, struggling with themselves. The fact was written large all over them. It showed in the way they walked. They were bundles of nerves. This seems to me a totally wrong psychological method. It is much easier and much more effective quietly to rise above these lower elements of our constitution, and thus to live in an atmosphere of inner peace and of inner harmony, simply ignoring the ignoble elements in us; and finally they die a natural death. In this way you don't stimulate them and feed them by paying undue attention to them. Just ignore them! Let your heart be filled with harmony, with peace, with impersonal love. That is the real word – with love for all things great and small. The man or woman who is continually in a battle, continually in a struggle, continually in a fight, is really beaten before he or she has begun to achieve.