The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
September 2002 Vol. 5 Issue 7
Many years ago, in my job as clerk of works on building sites, I not infrequently encountered the "outside manager" for a firm of contractors. My attention was first drawn to him by the thoroughness with which the work for which he was overall responsible was carried out. Also I observed an unusual relationship of goodwill between the workers and himself. They could be trusted to do a good job on every occasion. From this, there developed in me a real interest in the man himself. I wanted to get to know him and, at a convenient moment, told him so. Here is his story, imprinted in my memory so that I relate it almost verbatim:
While I was in my middle teens both my parents died within a few months of each other. We were poorish people, and I was faced with earning my own living. But my applications for jobs were always fruitless, and I got into very low spirits. I was living with my aunt, my mother's eldest sister, who was very kind to me. One day she said to me: "Your job failures occur because your looks and your general demeanor speak louder than your words. You are living in your grief for what is now past."
"What should I do, then, to change?" I asked.
"As you walk along the streets," she replied, "look into the faces of the people you pass. Whenever you see your worried and despondent self mirrored in any passerby, send a thought of compassion, of hope and courage, towards that one, out of your own fellow-feeling." – A. E. Urquhart
In whatever part of the world we may live, the coming of autumn stirs the depths of consciousness. It is a pensive, a reflective time. On the one hand, we joy in the sumptuous warmth and abundance of harvest; on the other, somber thoughts besiege us that seem subtly to presage the beginning of the end. Both have their use in the calendar of experience. Children getting out their schoolbooks once again are only part of a general turning in towards the serious business of life and its deeper undercurrents.
The whole year has been a preparation for this time. The thought of harvest puts us in mind of something that demands fulfilment. Generations of farmers have depended for their very subsistence upon the crop they have been able to produce. They have sown the seed in the spring, and with all the skill they possessed have brought it to maturity through the summer – now they must abide by the result. In the same way the searching chill that assails us at this time is like the cold regard of Justice demanding to know what we have to show for the year's living thus far. So it is a time for taking stock, and gathering our forces, as the farmer gathers his seed, against another year with a better try.
After several centuries of the concept of "man and nature," there is now real advance towards making friends with her in a new way, entering into her great rhythms, and becoming aware that the processes of nature that bring about the seasons operate equally in ourselves as members of the human kingdom.
Take any single lifetime, and it is plain that the four seasons fill its measure, as Keats and many others have noticed. And as in the case of a year, perhaps the autumn of life is its most significant period. Many of the interests and activities that formerly seemed so important are beginning to fall away, yet the inner life is still at high tide, the feeling of a second spring is strong in us. And now all that we do is a preparation, in order to fulfill whatever has been so far left undone, against the time of an accounting that looms ever nearer. When at the coming of autumn we
. . . feel her finger light
Laid pausefully upon life's headlong train
the peace of nature enters into us, and with it a sense of the eternal continuity of life. To each season its appropriate acti-vities and labors. Meanwhile, there is always the bird-song rich and sweet, the gleam of silver in the web of life, and springtime in the heart. – Madeline Clark
"Mind: The Slayer of the Real" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What is the mind, and how does it relate to emotion, intuition, consciousness, the brain, and the senses? Is there mind in other kingdoms of nature and in the cosmos as a whole? What do we mean by reality, and what faculties and means can we use to discern it more fully? In what ways does the intellect help or hinder us in this objective? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
October 17: How Powerful Are Our Genes?
November: Exploring the Theosophic Tradition
December: Is Taking Life Ever Justified?
January 2003: Hierarchies: A Universal Pattern?
February: God, God's Will, and Karma
March: How Can We Find Peace?
Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised are there-fore as real to him as himself. Whatever reality things possess must be looked for in them before or after they have passed like a flash through the material world; but we cannot cognise any such existence directly, so long as we have sense-instruments which bring only material existence into the field of our consciousness. Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities.
As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached "reality"; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya.
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Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced. The present is only a mathematical line which divides that part of eternal duration which we call the future, from that part which we call the past. Nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without change – or the same – for the billionth part of a second; and the sensation we have of the actuality of the division of "time" known as the present, comes from the blurring of that momentary glimpse, or succession of glimpses, of things that our senses give us, as those things pass from the region of ideals which we call the future, to the region of memories that we name the past. In the same way we experience a sensation of duration in the case of the instantaneous electric spark, by reason of the blurred and continuing impression on the retina. The real person or thing does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is composed of the sum of all its various and changing conditions from its appearance in the material form to its disappearance from the earth. No one could say that a bar of metal dropped into the sea came into existence as it left the air, and ceased to exist as it entered the water, and that the bar itself consisted only of that cross-section thereof which at any given moment coincided with the mathematical plane that separates, and, at the same time, joins, the atmosphere and the ocean. Even so of persons and things, which, drop-ping out of the to-be into the has-been, out of the future into the past – present momentarily to our senses a cross-section of their total selves, as they pass through time and space (as matter) on their way from one eternity to another: and these two constitute that "duration" in which alone anything has true existence, were our senses but able to cognize it there.
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Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the rajah of the senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion. The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer. For: – When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms he sees in dreams; when he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE – the inner sound which kills the outer. Then only, not till then, shall he forsake the region of Asat, the false, to come unto the realm of Sat, the true.
Before the soul can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to all illusion. Before the Soul can hear, the image (man) has to become as deaf to roarings as to whispers, to cries of bellowing elephants as to the silvery buzzing of the golden fire-fly. Before the soul can comprehend and may remember, she must unto the Silent Speaker be united just as the form to which the clay is modelled, is first united with the potter's mind. For then the soul will hear, and will remember. And then to the inner ear will speak – the voice of the silence.