Formula for Progress

By James A. Long

We are witnessing a major breakthrough of the human spirit in its effort to follow the universal impulse to evolve into wider and freer areas of opportunity. This irresistible urge resides in the breast of every human being as well as in the whole body of humanity. We see its manifestation in the staggering diversity of pressures being felt in all quarters of the globe. It faces us with the great challenge to rediscover those unifying elements that can bring about a positive cohesion of sound spiritual values which, wisely used, will create peace and harmony out of chaos.

The food of progress for man is experience. Like food for our material bodies, it must be taken in, digested, the vital components absorbed, and the waste thrown off. For billions of years the human kingdom, unconsciously to most of us, has been feeding itself experiences of every kind, spiritual, mental, physical, from which, under the protection of a cosmic intelligence, the good has been assimilated and the waste elements cast aside. In our physical vehicle, any disturbance of this process brings illness and suffering. When this occurs, a group of antibodies go to work to try to overcome the diseased cells and restore the natural equilibrium. These antibodies likewise have acquired their unique ability through eons of evolutionary training so that they perform their task automatically and in the right way, when and where they are needed.

As we raise our thought from the physical and automatic to higher levels of awareness, we recognize the tremendous implications of our mental and self-conscious determination to evolve through the proper use of individual free will. We realize that the full responsibility of discrimination falls squarely upon the shoulders of every man and woman to select what "experience-food" to take in, not merely to maintain the status quo but to advance in inner strength and health. As intelligent and self-conscious units in the body corporate of mankind, we have the continuing choice of aligning our forces with the progressive qualities of nature or, if we prefer, with the disintegrative elements that work to vitiate the effect of every true evolutionary impulse. We have also the higher choice of preparing ourselves to become, in time, an alert and active antibody in the life stream of human affairs.

One might well ask, "But how can I, one among billions, consciously help the cause of progress, even though my desire be strong? How can I within the burdens of my day contribute something worth while to the upbuilding of human character?"

If we return to our analogy, we find the single cell in our body contributing, within the burdens of its "day," its full share of vitality, and this in spite of the impingements upon it of many types of disease germs. We, likewise, amid the complexities of our lives must try consciously to distill from the flow of day-to-day experiences those qualities that build, and reject those that tend to tear down.

"But this requires greater moral stamina than I possess!" With this I cannot agree. True, no one can perform to perfection, but all of us, regardless of race or nationality, can perform far beyond our self-limited comprehension. It is a sobering thought to realize that you and I, as individual units in this great army of humankind, each with our destined responsibilities, can and do affect the whole of human nature (and by so much the future of humanity) with our every thought and feeling. If one cell in our constitution malfunctions, our entire body feels it; and when a number of cells fail to cooperate with the over-all purpose of growth, and instead work for their own limited interests, we have the beginning of a malignancy which, if not checked, can bring on serious disease and possible death.

What then can we do about present global conditions, where we have tangible daily evidence of individuals and groups not only causing themselves unnecessary difficulties but also, by their blind and self-centered actions, bringing anguish and unrest to the whole of mankind? We are one world, in consciousness and in actuality, and we cannot cut ourselves off by saying "that is not my problem," and go about our business as usual, forgetting our responsibilities as easily as we forget the morning's headlines. Such is against the evolutionary trend. On the other hand, we can go to the other extreme and become so over-disturbed by the doings of this or that distant group that we not only end up being no help at all, but we may, by our own distraction, actively bring harm to the very ones who are near to us and for whom we do have a direct obligation.

There is always the "middle way" which embraces the larger view and recognizes that in the full circulations of the cosmic vitality there is not one spark of life that does not contribute some measure of good or ill to the growth and progress of every other life-spark; and that because of this unceasing and universal interchange of energyimpulses, our supreme duty is to reorient ourself -- to re-learn that the "inmost center" of our potential is one with the "inmost centers" of our fellow men. Once we comprehend that all "others" are in truth ourselves, we come to intuit more clearly the warp and woof of destiny that binds us all together in this living fabric of human souls. We reach then that deeper quality of understanding and compassion, knowing that through the pains of growth nature is compelling hu- mankind to decisive spiritual action.

There are those who attribute the turmoil of our times to moral fatigue, lamenting the seeming loss of integrity in human relationships. I prefer to consider our present confusion of efforts as a lack of recognition of our true goals. It is my firm belief that civilization today is exhibiting a higher degree of moral fortitude than in any previous era. Otherwise how account for the unprecedented and widespread resolve on the part of peoples everywhere to find the solution to a better way of life and, foremost of all, to grow in a freedom of spirit unshackled by the chains of an outgrown psychology of conformity. It is indeed an enormous step forward to realize that the effects of our thinking and feeling cannot remain with us alone but must, by the universal law of attraction and repulsion, affect all the other six or more billion human beings in this great body of striving humanity. And while there are groups, here and there, deliberately infecting the circulatory system of mankind's thought-stream, let us not forget the antibodies also at work on the positive side, ready and alert to act as restorers of harmony.

The keys to our origin and ultimate destiny, and our relationship to the cosmos and to our fellow man, are rooted in the idea that man is potentially structured in the image of the divine intelligence that gave him birth. We, on the other hand, in our extreme ignorance of the universal scheme of things, have considered that cosmic creative intelligence as reflecting our image -- an image patterned after a personalized and limited concept of a human being! We lost sight of the sublime fact that the spark of godhood inherent in the human breast is compatible with, because one with, the limitless potentiality of the cosmic divine intelligence. Herein lies the ocean of reserve moral and spiritual strength available to every individual cell within the body of humanity. Herein lies the treasury from which each one of us can draw to fulfill our desire to lend a helping hand in writing the story of this time. Herein lies the key to that higher discrimination which we must use in the performance of our full duty to all.

To the degree that we, in our respective corners of the globe, can become aware of our universal value and our essentiality to the whole, to that degree will the inner bond between us and our divine source find positive expression through our lives. We will by so much have become stronger elements -- purifying antibodies -- in the soul and life of mankind. -- James A. Long

(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 2001; copyright © 2001 Theosophical University Press)

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Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God. -- Henri Frederic Amiel