The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
October 2011 – Vol. 14 Issue 8
Some years ago I was called to the bedside of an old man expected to live but a few days. We talked together for quite a while, my friend seeming to find relief in discussing thoughts that apparently had been much on his mind during his illness. “I have been a visitor on this earth for more than eighty years,” he said, “and looking back over that time I find one thing very clear: I may have done some good, but on the whole my life seems to have been one of neglected opportunities. I've been selfish, of a passionate and stubborn nature, and my thoughts and acts have been mostly centered around myself. I’ve done very little to conquer these weaknesses, and now when it is too late to change, I see my life as a failure. Whatever balance of good is transferred from one life to another, will, in my case, be very meager.”
In those few honest words, it seemed to me, the whole drama of his life was bared. Somehow I felt that despite his despair, his dying thoughts of recognition would go a long way in getting him started right that next time in which he so firmly believed. After I had gone home, however, a heavy sadness clung like dark clouds around my heart. I thought of the many whose lives seem like blank pages in the Book of Eternity! How may we prevent such failure in our own lives?
It is quite easy to see that faults of character have an effect on the inner as well as the outer person, holding back real growth if they are not weeded out. Such traits as vanity, anger, jealousy, fear – all have their origin in our selfish nature, and grow there like weeds if we do nothing to check them. Why do we allow them to stay there year after year doing their destructive work and choking out our higher aspirations?
For years I have believed that each of us has a Spiritual Companion, a Divinity, a Knower, who is ever waiting and ever ready to help, if we will do our part by earnestly trying to take our character in hand, endeavoring to purify it. By making our hearts beat more for others than for ourselves we gain something that will never leave us: the consciousness of our inner divine self. Every one of us is free to choose between good and evil – every moment of our lives. If we have sown seeds of selfishness, it is never too late to change. For as we sow, we shall reap, and the choice is ours.
The old man I visited had had several opportunities during his life to change his character, but he had made little use of them, gradually becoming a slave to his foolish sowing. Only in the harvest-time did he have the courage to analyze himself – his acts, his motives – comparing the wrong things in his life with the right ones, recognizing that in large measure he had been a harvester of failure. These words then came home to me as never before: “Desire to sow no seed for your own harvesting; desire only to sow that seed the fruit of which shall feed the world. You are a part of the world; in giving it food you feed yourself.”
If our efforts are continual, if no failure discourages us, we shall be harvesters of success – not for our ordinary acquisitive selves, but for that Spiritual Companion who is ever seeking to lead us to the Light. – W. Fekken
Good is not created. Evil is not created. They are two poles of the same thing. It is all a question of growth. Evil is merely the condition of an evolving entity which has not yet fully manifested the latent divinity at its core, and thus is inharmonious with its environment because of its imperfection. Human beings are evil entities when compared with the gods. The gods in their turn could be called evil by entities still loftier than they.
Throughout the cosmos we see that evil is the conflict among entities, arising because of their as yet imperfectly developed spiritual powers. Applying this to man and his works, the conflict of human wills and intelligences which strive against each other, produces disharmony, pain, disease, and all the host of evils. Yet when we learn the lesson that our interests are one instead of diverse, we shall work together in constantly increasing ratio as our spiritual under-standing unfolds. – G. de Purucker
“We believe we are at a time in history for a paradigm shift, where it is understood that a sustainable future depends on the realization of the interconnectedness of everything. The ultimate goal is to develop strategies transforming global structures of violence into a structure of nonviolence, and transforming the culture of war into a culture of peace.” – Winslow Myers
On August 22nd two Branch members were among those at a luncheon with Bill and Elaine Hallmark of Beyond War. It was heartening to hear how various groups around the world that are working toward social justice, peace, and environmental sustainability are joining together to amplify their efforts, even in the face of an unsympathetic mass media and resistance from those benefiting from the status quo. Several of those at the luncheon are organizing a series of three adult education classes on “Making Peace a Reality” to be held on the first three Sundays in November from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. at Newport Presbyterian Church, 4010 120th Avenue SE, Bellevue, WA. The public is welcome to attend.
An immensely rich past is alive in us, and due to accidents of history we are more conscious of what we have received from our Christian and Jewish heritage than of what we owe to Greece and Rome. Our Jewish-Christian ancestry has been actively held before our attention, both strains being still alive as present-day religions. But we know that all ancient cultures profoundly influenced each other, that each of them had its part in shaping all the others, and that none of them stood alone, either as God's supreme revelation or as mankind's unique truth. Yet Christians are in the habit of speaking of their faith as if it were a special body of truth given to humanity by Christ, who received it direct from God, when actually Christianity as it matured was an amalgam of many diverse elements, chiefly Greek philosophy, Roman law, Hebrew ethics, mystery-ritual and supernaturalism. At the start the young sect was part of Judaism. Then it became a heresy and finally grew into a rival religious movement, offering a way of spiritual life both to Jews and non-Jews looking for deliverance from a difficult world. The unwitting founder felt himself completely loyal to the Jewish people and their faith, and stated forcefully that his mission was not to destroy that faith but to fulfill it.
But was not Jesus' teaching of love a brand-new dispensation, a long step ahead of the legalistic Jewish emphasis on justice? So we have been told, but this view is not substantiated by actual statements in the Bible, whether Hebrew or Christian (which is of course Jewish too). Even the teachings attributed to Jesus that are usually considered uniquely his and held to be Christianity's unique revelation – the Lord's Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes – came directly from the Old Testament. The Christian ethic and way of life are but an elaboration of this simple teaching, "Love to God and love to man," dating back to 700 BC in that particular form, and far older in its origins.
Love is a delight in the presence of another, an affirming of his value, a protection of his opportunity as much as one's own. The daring insight of the Jewish-Christian teaching of love was to take that attitude and make it the ideal basis of all our human relationships. A loving person does not have merely a romantic, certainly not a possessive feeling, but he cares, respects, encourages, feels responsible, seeks understanding, shares and gives. Most of all he takes joy in the existence of others, and is guided by the desire to further their good and their fulfillment as individuals.
If this is what being a Christian means to you, then be a Christian with all your might! But while you embrace this vital aspect of Christianity, be aware that what you are living is also the ethical center of Judaism. Nor is that the limit of your religious companionship with other ages, cultures and faiths. Love is not a Christian invention nor an especially Jewish virtue – these are only the channels through which we happen to have inherited this way of life. Love is deep and central in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism, and he who opens his heart to its warmth and gives of himself to his fellow humans is living by the one truly universal religious ideal mankind has ever known. Hear the symphony that sounds in the blending of these words from all over the world, and ask yourself when the day will come when people will be more concerned with a responsible, caring attitude toward all others than with an imagined superiority of one religion or race over another.
Hear Mohammed saying: “Consider only what is for the good of each, and think not of the wrong that has been done to thyself.”
Hear Buddha: “One should seek for others the happiness he desires for himself. As a mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her only son, so let a man cultivate good will without measure toward all human beings.”
Hear Confucius: “Loveless man cannot endure either fortune or need. A loving heart metes out five things to all below heaven: modesty, bounty, truth, earnestness and kindness.”
These are among the immortals assuring us that when Jesus spoke of loving kindness and undemanding giving of oneself, his was not a solitary voice in the wilderness but one in the chorus of the human wise through all the ages. When we truly experience this, we may at last be able to say of ourselves, with E. Burdette Backus: "The important thing about me is not that I am a Protestant or a Catholic, a Jew or a Muslim, a Christian or a Buddhist or a Parsee, but that I am a human being, seeking to express in my life more of goodness, beauty, truth and love than I have yet achieved or dreamed. As such, I belong to a fellowship greater than any religion that has ever existed. I worship in the Temple of Humanity, not yet built, but in the building. In that temple, all who love, all who aspire, all who strive to think clearly, to act responsibly, shall know themselves as one.”