The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
May 2015 – Vol. 18 Issue 3
Our central purpose in living is to broaden the base of our perceptions. A story in Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm, a Northern Cheyenne, elaborates on this point. It tells of a little boy and girl who sneak down to the river and talk to the powerful person living in it. This person, it is said, can solve any problem. When the little boy and girl return to the camp and tell what has happened, the people become very upset and scold the children sharply. For even though everyone in the camp has already visited the river in secret many times, no one wants to talk about it because no one wants to admit, even to himself, that he or she really does have problems. Storm later points out that this river actually runs within ourselves, because the powerful person found there is our own spirit. That is why everyone who stole down to this inner current of being saw only the reflection of himself. The personal self which we are self-consciously aware of at present is the reflection in earth life of our powerful inward spirit, that eternal part of us which time and again puts forth a personal mask in order to expand and enrich its experience through life.
In the story the children learn of this truth through a conversation with Old Man Coyote and Old Woman Coyote. The coyote is called the gentle trickster of learning. His song represents the deep and abiding wisdom which we already embody, and daily reflect more fully, through living in harmony with all around us. Storm writes of this: “As the Coyote sings, his song is echoed by many other Coyotes. These songs, the Teachers tell us, are the songs of the many Reflections that live within all of us.” He says further that as we harken to this song we become "The Flowering Tree," that is, we realize that we are a mirror of the universe and at the same time one with it. Old Man and Old Woman Coyote give the little boy and girl these ancient wisdom teachings in the symbolic form of two coyote robes, and instruct the children to give these robes to the other people of the camp so they too may be able to "put on" this understanding. But the people continue to mock the children and deride the gifts they bring, until finally a kindly man and woman step for-ward. They adopt the children and put on the robes. Immediately they tell the starving tribe that they see buffalo to the north, south, east, and west. The buffalo symbolizes wisdom. The four directions represent the four ways of perceiving. To the north is perceiving within mind. To the south, within innocence and trust. To the east, within illumination. And to the west, within introspection.
The people become very excited because they too begin to see the gifts of these ways of looking. But they soon become confused and divided because some want to rush off toward one way of perceiving and others want to pursue different directions. Eventually they decide to kill the trouble-makers who started all this. But as they close in on the instigators, they find that the little boy and girl have become a flowering tree, which represents that principle of growth, of blossoming perceptual enlargement, which allows us to see "through the eyes of our brothers." To see, in other words, that just as the universe is a Great Medicine Wheel, a great cosmic hierarchy of harmony and compassion, so each one of us is a personal medicine wheel within that great circle of being. Unfortunately, the people see this teaching, not as a grand and liberating thought, but as a hateful threat to their selfish preconceptions. In their blind anger, they strike at the tree, not realizing that they are only fighting within them-selves. Next they turn to silence the young man and woman, but find only their tracks, the tracks of two lions. The lion stands for the teachers among the people, and hence represents the principle of balance.
The tracks lead them off to the north, and in a great circle back to the flowering tree, that is, their search leads them to a fresh confrontation with themselves. Exhausted by their journey, the people all sit down and begin to talk honestly to each other. They realize that they don't really want to hurt anyone. They find that as a result of having unwittingly united together to do something as a whole people, they can now hear the four harmonies of balance, symbolized by the songs sung by a white coyote from the north, a green coyote from the south, a yellow coyote from the east, and a black coyote from the west. The people, of course, represent the whole hierarchy of selves within each individual human being.
The story of the Flowering Tree shows that our purpose here is to unify these many selves into one harmonious whole, which will then enable us to live in peace and brotherhood with all around us. We do this by achieving a balanced perceiving within all of the four directions. If we perceive within only one, or two, or even three of these, we will be seeing and understanding life incompletely and hence will be out of balance within ourselves and with our brothers and sisters. This, then, is what Storm regards as the purpose and method of truly human living: to achieve, self-consciously, that balance within the four directions of perceiving which will enable that powerful person within us, our spirit, to "solve any problem," that is, to express itself fully to each of our selves and to all others. – Bill Dougherty
Once upon a time, many years ago, on a bright May afternoon I wandered a secluded arroyo and rested by a small pond. Sun gave warmth and a slight breeze cool at the pond's edge. A redwinged blackbird was enthroned on a stand of reeds at the pond's center; his liquid song had drawn me there. He and the reed danced with the breeze, singing an intense rippling joy. Sun, breeze, water, seclusion, and song worked magic – a state of reverie grew. Blackbird's liquid singing filled me, each note dancing with and echoing the water. Soul stirred, beyond thought, time, and space. Then, things began to disappear. Blackbird first. Then reed and water were gone. I disappeared. There was only Sun: singing through a form called blackbird; blowing in a form called breeze, rippling through a form called water, dancing through a form called reed, listening through a form called me. It was all Sun. Only Sun. And Sun's song swelled, being the world. But I was singing, I was that song, singing of many things: beauty, water, reed, and life dancing with breeze. And reed, water, earth, bird, and I were really one. We were Life's Spring Sun.
Time passed but measure was superfluous. Sun was farther west and shadows farther east than when I arrived. Returned to ordinary limitations, yet moved and transformed, I left that experience, making my way home. But words can't convey what came home with me.
Of course that wasn't At-One-Ment in the cosmic sense. Just a "mini" version – a little taste. That is – is, not was, for it lives in and with me still – a small moment of grace, a mystic gift. Not something worked for – or even deserved. Simply a gift. How did it happen? I wasn't meditating, trying to become at-one. I'm no saint, that's for sure, so if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. But why did it happen to me? And how does it happen to anyone?
I've always felt that to be a practicing mystic one must be practical. So, what's the key to that door? What's the practice that allowed that gift to be bestowed and received? Reflection revealed I'd been relaxed, receptive, aware, open – seeking and accepting only what that moment of Life had to offer. And then ... it was given. I felt I'd simply 'let go,' but of what? Of the experience of separateness: "I'm separate from bird, reed from water, sun from reed,” etc.
If this universe is all one, what's this seeming separateness? Hindu mystics name it maya (illusion). They say we're submerged in, live and breathe, illusion. And the greatest illusion is separateness, for all is divine and divinity is one, and though each aspect of the one is different from every other, none is separate.
If self-reflective perception of oneness is a gift and can't be forced, can it be invited and prepared for? The ego can't become God (though it sure likes to think so). How can we let go of our sense of separateness, of our need to control life? Through time people have prayed, meditated, performed rituals, engaged in ceremonies, danced, sung, drummed, taken drugs, practiced devotion and austerities, or just sat. Different strokes for different folks. But, the bottom line is: just say, Yes! – with an accepting awareness; seeking what is different from me and embracing what I can of it. It comes down to one simple, overworked word – love. Or, if you prefer, the mystic formula: love, devotion, surrender.
There was a universe of experience in the blackbird's song: hunger stirring; territoriality; the mating urge (it was that time of year); flux of electromagnetic currents through the earth; insects buzzing (as musical complement and as a possible snack); stars dancing their courses – interconnected Life experiencing Itself through one of Its manifestations.
Try it sometime: sit by a stream, see minnows flashing enjoyment in dappled sunlight playing through water on self, rocks, and sand. Feel graceful power of your being flex and release rhythmically in such harmony and rightness as approaches perfect wholeness. Another thrust of joy and … sudden! pain/confusion, panic. A crayfish, ridiculously small and harmless to your human self, is now a giant predator whose claws grip your flesh, devouring it alive.
Here's the rub: Life – Divinity – isn't just sweetness and joy. It's also pain and sorrow. Life isn't always what we desire it to be. It simply is.
Sure, we all want to be at-one with birds singing joy, minnows flashing freedom, divine music pouring forth. That's the divinity we had in mind. Perhaps the problem is mind's conceptual dissecting and separating. Mind is an aspect of the divine, as all maya is, but we hang up on it, feeling that what mind thinks is real – especially when it's connected to our desires. But what do we desire? Not Life as it is but only the parts of it we like, the peace, love, beauty, etc. Is this universe those things? Yes. Is it only those things? No.