The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
February 2007 -- Vol. 9 Issue 12
Let us conduct our lives as though each moment were the most precious in eternity: keeping an endless sacred festival in our hearts and living all the year in the joy of service to humanity. No day is commonplace if only we have eyes to see its splendor. With every nightfall a door is closed for the soul. Other lives and myriads of days will come to us, but never just the day that is ending: never that environment, those moments, those opportunities. They are gone, and long cycles of effort must be traversed before what they offered can return. This very day we can make or mar our lives. We can fill all the hours of it with such powerful affirmation of our hopes that they will become the world's hopes and the illumination of all life. No duty can come to our hands in it but will bring us the possibility of doing kingly service.
Hence the importance of our first thoughts upon waking. If one rises in the morning in a mood through which the soul can express itself, one is at peace during the whole day. Remember how great is the creative power of the imagination. Build up with it, upon waking, a picture of hope and joy, lay aside all that belongs to the lower self and, going up into the temple of the heart, dedicate the day to self-purification -- and you invite an invasion of the gods. But rise with the brain-mind dominant and a day of perplexing difficulties awaits you.
Some are burdened and aged by the consciousness of their failings. There is great danger for the one who in working towards his higher nature permits himself to dwell too long upon his failings -- indeed, to think of them at all is a mistake and a sign that the courage is weakening.
Do not obscure from your vision the glory of your tomorrows by brooding on the gloom of your yesterdays! The brightest of us undervalues his powers. One half our battles are defeats because we have so cultivated fear that we dread to undertake them. The human mind, conscious of its unworthiness, enters the path half afraid and with hesitation and is eternally looking towards the goal instead of taking each day as it comes with affectionate determination. There is a great lesson to be learned from these experiences: dealt with in time they often lead to splendid victories.
So if you are looking for rest and relief and peace, or for the love of your comrades, find what you desire by giving it forth out of the treasure chambers of yourself. Thought is of little value unless it generates thought: by the power of imagination create within yourself the divine warrior. Begin to fashion your tomorrows by shutting out your yesterdays' weaknesses. Go forth into the day and its duties with mind open to the light and trusting in the god within, the divinity at the heart of things, saying of that higher self, I will arise and go to my Father, and to the lower, Get thee behind me, Satan! -- Katherine Tingley
I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one's self is. . . .
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass . . . -- Walt Whitman
This month "Who Are We? " is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What are effective ways of getting to know ourselves, and what is the value of doing so? What is our relation to our body, thoughts, feelings, impulses, instincts, intuitions, and awareness? Are we one with, or separate from, the rest of the universe? Is our identity fixed? Is our sense of selfhood or ego innate or something we have built up? How can we control and change ourselves? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.
March 22: Health and Healing
April: Our Place in the Universe
May: Am I My Brother's Keeper?
June: How Do We Find Joy in Life?
July: Ancient Knowledge, Ancient Truths
August: Inner Alchemy
September: Music of the Spheres
October: Is Theosophy Relevant Today?
November: The Uses of Adversity
Because we can perceive people's bodies, we are aware of the great variations in human appearance. It's obvious that, despite similarities, everyone looks unique. Each of us has many other unique physical features such as voice print and retinal scans. I wonder, however, whether we realize how unique we each are in our invisible selves? Not just in our general personality, but also in the specific ways we perceive, think, and feel.
It's natural to assume that most people's senses and mind work more or less the same way ours do because we have no direct knowledge of other people's internal experience. In the same way, we may at first think that all families organize the details of their lives the way our family does, or that all sensible people hold values and concepts similar or compatible to the ones we grew up with -- until we live around people with different habits and beliefs. Our inner selves are so private that we may never become aware that generalizing from ourselves to others is inaccurate.
If we compare notes with others about our inner experience, we may be surprised to find how different people are. One person may feel psychologically connected to the world, another as radically separate as an atom of awareness. With some, their awareness stands back from the play of consciousness and events, while others are completely absorbed in their life experience. Some people feel divided, as if made of several separate "selves" or various layers of masks or screens. Others may experience themselves as a continuum or a unitary being. People also display qualities that we can think of in terms of contrasting pairs such as analytical/synthetic, abstract/concrete, contrasting/analogical, and inductive/deductive. Popular concepts such as different learning styles, types of "intelligence," and psychological types are very crude classifications, on the level of categorizing people's appearance by general body type, or by hair, eye, and skin color. We may be intrigued by these broad classifications, but such rough categories give us no inkling of the vast range of human inner uniqueness.
In truth, we have no idea of the varieties of awareness and perception possible for human beings. We are in the position of a blind man being asked to describe the diversity of human appearance. So when we try to answer "who are we?" we can really know only ourselves and no one else, no matter how open or intimate we are with another. Perhaps that's one reason the Greek oracle advised visitors to "know yourself" -- it is the only subject we can perceive directly and from the inside.
Discovering who we are is challenging, and requires becoming a scientist of our own psyche. So often we identify with our thoughts, feelings, moods, or even our actions or appearance. Our self-image may be a fixed picture that has grown up over years, based in large part on what others tell us and what we tell ourselves. For we are just as apt to stereotype ourselves as we are other people. Such pidgeonholing is a lazy strategy which saves us the trouble of having to figure out and deal with other individuals and our direct experience. It is the same mental process we see when people are asked to draw an object in front of them, such as a chair or face. Instead of drawing what they actually see, they are apt to draw a caricature, a symbolic cultural shorthand for that type of object. Getting around this mental tendency and learning to really observe and record what's before us often requires effort and training.
When we begin to observe ourselves the way a scientist might observe an animal in its environment, we see that our thoughts and feelings come and go in our awareness. They are not our consciousness, but rather its contents. We become more aware of our ego or ordinary sense of self as part of us rather than the center of who we are. Its judgments, worries, concern with past and future are just ever-changing aspects of our awareness. We may also notice that sometimes things from our life are reflected into our psyche, while at other times the universe acts as a mirror so that everywhere we look we see ourselves.
Where are "we" in all these psychological phenomena? No matter how long or carefully we observe, there is always a part of us that we can't perceive as an object. This "watcher" is fundamental in the sense that we can't get behind it or beyond it. To transcend it is to become one with All, God, or the Mystery behind duality. Sometimes this happens for a short while spontaneously; sometimes it is achieved through preparation and effort. Perhaps this awareness that we can never observe as separate from us is the core of who we are.