The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
September 2009 – Vol. 12 Issue 7
Seasons are the consequence of time. It is said that change is the only constant – as time passes all in the universe moves on and, with that movement, change is inevitable. Things change in relation to everything else, yet spiritually growth takes place as the external vehicles decay. In the worlds of form, time is measured in minutes, days, years – in eternity, unbroken duration exists.
As our lives unfold in stages, allowing us time to blossom into our full potential, we have the illusion of a gradual transition between one phase and the next, yet the course of our life is not linear. As we wake and sleep each day our expectation is of tomorrow being much the same as today – the surprise is that the realization of change is sudden. From day to day we are not aware of the passage of time as regards the physical aspects of our lives. Each cycle in life creeps up on us: we don't notice our strength and sexuality burgeoning and, although undoubtedly anticipated, we find the reality of puberty far different from our expectations. Similarly, we look in the mirror each day not noticing the growth of wrinkles, then, as if by magic, the veil suddenly lifts and one day we really look and are shocked. The image we have carried of our face suddenly has to be updated.
With each phase changes take place unnoticed by the mind – there are no visible fences to cross between each "age of man" – our recognition of having crossed over into another arena in life seems to burst in on us! With this new awareness we realign our focus. In the mind the real action takes place, transmuting experience into wisdom. Truth is the armor which can protect us from all harm; if we can honestly assess our lives in relation to the eternal rhythms of nature there is no hurt – we are sharing in the common experience of all manifested beings.
The rhythms of life – from conception to death and rebirth – go along age-old patterns laid down and perfected during the dawn of our humanity. Yet more than ever we seem to be ill prepared for the changes that take place. Families and communities have ceased to be closely knit units and, as a result, an intimate contact with every facet of life is lacking in our lives. Unfortunately, a compassionate understanding of each unique aspect of human development is thereby also lost. We no longer seem to anticipate the inevitable changes that occur throughout the course of a life, leaving us unready to deal with the realities of the many rites of passage undergone during life's natural progression.
As ritual and religion have become passe, so the recognition of transitional episodes has been undervalued or completely ignored. Growing up, growing old, and finally dying are all events that need to be dealt with and supported in a positive way. The turbulence of the teenage years is a very good example. Dealing with it takes skill, patience, and wisdom on the part of all. Going from the householder state to the retired state also requires the same thought and compassion. We grow and do not notice the gradual changes that take place; however, surprisingly, new phases in our life seem to come suddenly and are always accompanied by an inner turmoil and realignment.
By mentally preparing ourselves for every eventuality we become internally forearmed. What is expected is never as frightening as the unknown. Knowing the course of nature's rhythms, understanding that they are reflected in all living things, builds compassion. Further, knowing we have traveled the road of life over many eons, time becomes an ally – we can avoid false hope or pride in physical prowess or shame or guilt at infirmities that come with the passage of time. Material bodies, possessions, worldly esteem are ephemeral; by placing our focus on the eternal realities we can surmount all difficulties by cherishing each new challenge for the growth potential hidden at its core.
To everything there is a season: a time for sowing, a time for growing, a time for reaping – then rest and regeneration – winter will blossom into the spring of a new beginning. Each rite of passage is in effect the death of the "old" and a birth of the "new." – Nhilde Davidson
"This month "Seasons of Our Lives" is our subject. We'll be discussing such questions as: What lessons do various phases of our life bring? In what ways is an individual life progresssive, haphazard, or made up of cycles such as seasons or small deaths and rebirths? How much do the roles and responsibilities assigned to youth, middle age, and old age depend on social and cultural factors, and how much on biology? Is our identity in adulthood fixed or constantly changing? In what ways is age a state of mind? How best can we face the challenges of different epochs in our lives? 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.
October 8: Peace and Justice
November: The Universe Within
December: Service to Humanity
January: Collective Consciousness
Patros and Odis were fishermen from Delos, the island of Apollo's birth. As was the custom, they were sent in tribute to be boatmen on the Lake of Avernus. It was an honor – and their heads were crowned with laurel. And yet, in only seven weeks they would be replaced – for it was not a pleasant task: they ferried passengers to the Cavern of Dying Souls, the pathway to the Underworld.
Odis was an able seaman, young and strong and full of health. "The old and sick will drain me of my strength," he told himself, and avoided them as much as possible. As quickly as he could, he ferried them across without a word of solace. In another month he would return to Delos, and all this misery could be forgotten.Patros, on the other hand, was far beyond his prime. The strength and the endurance of his youth were in decline, and he made the passage very slowly. But instead of being oppressed by his surroundings, something in his cheerful nature kept his mind at ease. In fact, he spoke freely with his passengers, as if there was no cause at all for sorrow – with a kindly smile, a gentle touch, and a sparkle in his eyes. He was so disarming that the old and sick forgot their sadness and enjoyed themselves. "You have traveled here before," he would tell them. "This vessel stays, but you go on to the farther shore."
At the landing of the Cavern, there was only room for one boat at a time. And so it chanced one day that Odis had to wait, for Patros was already there. One by one, Patros helped his passengers to the landing and gave each a fond farewell. But as far as Odis was concerned this was a needless waste of time – and he finally lost his patience: "What in Pluto's name is taking you so long, old man? Hurry up!"
Yet Patros was undaunted. "Old man!" he chuckled. "Pluto is old, not I." But Odis was in no mood for levity and became incensed with anger and resentment. "Go to Pluto yourself!" he roared. "And take this honor with you!" – and he threw his crown of laurel at the landing. Suddenly a storm of indignation filled the sky, a turbulence so violent that both boats were tossed ashore. So unrelenting was the tempest in its fury that everyone was forced to seek the only shelter: the Cavern of Dying Souls.
And thus Odis found himself among the old and sick. Care, Disease, Decrepitude, and Pain – all the demons that could drain him of his strength – cast their shadows upon him, and he stumbled down the pathway to the Underworld.
Down he went deeper and deeper, along the River of Woe, winding ever downward past the River of Lamentation . . . and then the current stopped: the gates of Pluto closed in upon his mind and he was filled with fear. "All is lost," he told himself, and he resigned himself to death. Just then he heard the voice of Patros calling out his name: "Odis! Will you not come back with me? You are here before your time."
"No!" cried Odis. "The demons in the passage are too horrible to look upon." But Patros was unswerving: "Come now, my son. It's not your time to be on the farther shore."
"No, no, no!" Odis sobbed. "I have nothing to look forward to in life but sickness and old age."
Yet Patros would not be dissuaded. From beneath his cloak he lifted up the laurel crown that Odis had cast away: "Is there nothing that you left behind that really needs you still?" As Odis looked upon the laurel, something deep within him stirred: this was the crown of his family and friends, for they had placed it on his brow. Even in the darkness of the Underworld, he felt it glowing with their care. And as he took it in his hands and bowed his head – he was crowned with light. "I want to go back," he said, "to those who need me still." So arm in arm, sustained by hope and guided by their fellowship, they ascended to the earth. They walked along the River of Woe with sympathy and understanding. The demons of infirmity were passed without the slightest fear. And they moved among the old and sick as friends and fellow travelers.
When Odis finally saw the light of day, Patros turned to him and smiled. "Now, my son, you see how misconceptions close the mind? The River of Life is always moving; but we try to stop the current with illusions that we will end when the body dies. Each of us can wear Apollo's crown upon our brow, if only we can find his light within our heart – and this will show us who we really are. Thus can we be guided through our darkest thoughts of death: renewing each other in the fellowship of hope. The light within each of us will be forever young. Only the darkness is old."