Investment in Strength

By James A. Long

The struggle of mankind to move from the darkness into the light has engaged the attention of generations of serious-minded citizens in every quarter of the globe. Century after century there have been individuals who have dared to storm the "gates of heaven" and infuse courage and a larger vision into the thinking of mankind. Side by side with these few, however, has been the deadweight of those who refuse to meet even halfway the responsibility of humanhood. Today the critical nature of decision is a universal challenge -- no longer the privilege of the few, but the charge of all. But how to meet that challenge intelligently and wisely?

It is one thing to glimpse a vision of a more enlightened approach, quite another to implement it. The age-old virtues of charity, discrimination, courage, and understanding take years, maybe millennia, to become a solid investment in character. Everywhere men and women are asking themselves: if the battle of light against darkness continues endlessly, what of the use of force in our human relationships? If we see nature using force in her kingdoms, how can we expect man not to use force to bring about his will?

In the process of growth, naturally there is struggle and a conflict of wills. But we can question whether nature ever forces her growth. There is a world of difference between the compulsion of force and the beneficent use of strength. In physical matters, force undoubtedly works, for it takes only a few bulldozers, graders, and earth-movers to "remove a mountain." But in the higher levels of thinking and action, what do we invariably run into when force is applied? Opposition and more opposition, with force pitted against force, and no solution in view. Yes, in every field of human relations we do indeed find force, plenty of it, rearing its massive head: the force of the human will trying to compel change, trying to bulldoze its way through mountains of opposition. But if there are mountains other than those of rock and earth, do they not require implements of the spirit rather than of matter?

No, nature does not force growth. "The mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small" -- the workings of nature are quiet, yet strong, and while we can take a flower in a hothouse and by the application of forced heat hasten its maturity, in doing so we speed its death. The lifespan of that flower is far shorter than it would otherwise have been if allowed naturally to grow and develop in its own time and place.

If we could view the present turmoil and confusion through the perspective of history, we would see that all growth, all expansion of consciousness, all liberation of the human spirit, have not been forced into being but have accrued slowly through long years and many generations of silent yet potent endeavor. So it could be with nations: if the national wills work with a forceful determination to get benefits for themselves alone, without due consideration of the broad international scene, then we err because force, whether of weapons or words, becomes our medium of arbitration. But if nations would reflect the combined strength of the spiritual will of their respective peoples, we would find, almost automatically because so modest it would seem, that there would be an expression of justice, of good will, and the dignity of a wholesome interchange of viewpoint. Then the strength of wisdom needed to handle our major diplomatic and international problems would be forthcoming, and force would be seen not only as a fool's investment, but more, an investment in self-destruction.

We all remember the passage in Matthew where Jesus reminds his listeners that "from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Should we infer that Jesus meant that we must literally take the kingdom of spiritual things by force? Looking into the original we find that this injunction can with equal accuracy be translated in this way: "The kingdom of the heavens is overpowered, and the strong (of mind) seize it." The verb "overpower," coming from the root bia, in ancient Greek usage signified not only "bodily strength or power," but also "strength of mind." So why not interpret the Master's admonition as "the kingdom of spiritual things must be taken by strength, and those of strong mind seize it."

The hope of the world does not lie in doctrinal religion, in philosophic speculation, nor in scientific experiment. It lies where it has always been: in the courage and the vision of each succeeding generation to move with the tide of progress as it advances from one cycle to the next. We must look ever to the young in heart -- not always the young in years, but the young in resilience of spirit -- to chart new pathways of achievement so that the generations to follow may continue the upward progress of the human race. The crisis of today is not new -- it has been met countless times in ages past, but not in recorded history has there been so overwhelming a concern that our actions be enlightened. With every investment at our command, spiritual, mental, and physical, it would seem that victory would be simple. Yet there remains ever the natural timidity of human nature to cast off the old and seize with strength the kingdom of the new. There still are Nicodemuses who stand aloof, by their own choice, outside the circle of active responsibility; and the rich young rulers who, feeling the pull of truth yet prefer their bonds, the "riches" of their vested thought-vehicles, and thus deny themselves the privilege of joining the vanguard.

People today, however, are proving that there is a deep fund of unselfishness in their natures, coupled with a desire to do something creative with their lives. The dominant quality is a self-reliance of spirit and mind that no longer will accept tired literalisms of religious dogma, but is pioneering new frontiers in moral and spiritual values. The legacy of the "kingdom of heaven" is theirs -- not for liquidation through force, but held in trust for the "strong of mind" to seize -- a legacy of freedom of thought, of action, and most important, a legacy of freedom in spiritual aspiration.

(From Sunrise magazine, August/September 2005; copyright © 2005 Theosophical University Press)

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