Spiritual Bulwarks

By James A. Long

Sunrise came into being, not for the purpose of "selling" an idea or body of ideas, but with the sincere hope that those who search might find a thoughtful medium of exchange whereby together we could explore those basic durable concepts that have been the spiritual bulwark of the ages. After all, civilizations grow and become strong and great as the result of an expanding consciousness; by the same token civilizations fall and go into decay as the result of a contracting consciousness. We are grateful, therefore, to our readers and contributors for their support of our endeavor to maintain the pure spirit of a free exchange of thought; for it is openmindedness, whatever the faith or philosophy, whatever the creed or no creed, that will insure mankind's spiritual health.

In the past months we have discussed several themes common to most sacred scriptures. Some may ask just what is the value of a knowledge of all these things? Do they help us to live better; more importantly, do they bring strength and vision to meet the pressures of a complex age? We shall miss the boat completely if we allow ourselves to become involved solely in the intellectual fascination that certain aspects of these ancient traditions have, for that is not their purpose. These sacred scriptures were not preserved for posterity simply to tickle our intellectual palates. They have been given out periodically, from age to age, because behind every aspect of universal workings there is an ethical concept that we must not only recognize, but exemplify in our day to day lives.

All of which points up the tragedy that for many centuries we have not sought the broad view, not alone of the structure of the universe, but more pointedly of mankind's unique yet natural place within a larger pattern of destiny. We have been wont to consider, by miseducation, that we are worms of the dust and not potential gods. We have not been taught of the natural cooperation that exists in all the kingdoms above and below the human, and that the human kingdom must rediscover the ways and means to become, in time, a self-conscious cooperator with nature. In simple words, we have not been educated to understand and to work with the fact that brotherhood is nature in action, and nature is brotherhood. Once the peoples of the world eliminate the separatism that would tear humanity asunder, and really work with the fact of brotherhood, we shall find that the time need not be far distant when we can foresee a workable peace and concord among the different but not separate peoples of the globe.

We might call the universe a huge schoolroom, where some of the students regard each other with suspicion or are openly fighting for some coveted goal or prize, while the rest painfully try to keep the peace and to progress in some sort of orderly fashion. However, there is no formal guide, no formal set of spiritual instructions, that will bring enlightenment. The only teacher is Life itself.

It is all part of the enormous cycle of evolutionary growth of every portion of the universe, of which mankind is an insignificant yet vital part. Until we recognize the responsible part that we play, and that it is our duty to choose consciously what quality of thought and effort we are going to give to our every act, we will miss some of the subtle but simple things that are standing by ready to help us through our problems. We need not be disheartened, for in spite of our confusion, our lack of knowledge, and our overconcern with our petty selves, mankind generally is becoming more aware of the promptings of its divine self. There is not one of us who has not experienced the warm glow of a good deed well done. When we feel that, it is an expression of gratitude from the divinity within.

The framework of the ancient traditions comprises the most profound philosophy as well as the purest ethics. At the heart of all is divinity -- within, without, above, below. That divinity seeks expression that it might enrich the environment into which its influence is born. In the long pattern of evolution, there is one law or habit of nature that is constant -- the law of action and reaction, of cause and effect. In observing the working of this law, we intuit "a divinity that shapes our ends," and realize then how the experiences we meet from day to day and from year to year are signposts of what the soul requires for its growth. Tied in closely and irrevocably with this law of balance is the need for the repetitive experience of the soul in its eternal search for improvement, growth, and fulfillment. For it is only through the cyclic and continuing return of the soul to this schoolroom of life that the divinity within us can accomplish its mission of enrichment.

It is a beautiful pattern, for through the delicate and just balancing of the scales of cause and effect, the cycles of experience and rest in turn allow for the ever unfolding growth of the divine qualities at the heart of each one of us. We can be assured that the guardians of mankind would not have taken so great pains to preserve, in seed form at least, whether in myth, legend, symbol, or stone, a knowledge of this ancient wisdom merely to satisfy the curiosity of a few. This whole effort stems from the compassionate urge to give strength, vision, and guidance, and to bring alive our flaming intuition. We have only to look into the "inverted bowl of night," as Omar Khayyam called it, to see the harmony there, and to recognize that each one of us has not only the potential but the sublime duty to become a conscious laborer in the field of human enlightenment.

(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 2003; copyright © 2003 Theosophical University Press)

World Spiritual Traditions Menu

Our life's journey of self-discovery is not a straight-line rise from one level of consciousness to another. Instead, it is a series of steep climbs and flat plateaus, then further climbs. Even though we all approach the journey from different directions, certain of the journey's characteristics are common to all of us. -- Stuart Wilde