Which Side Am I On?

By A. E. Urqhart

An acquaintance of mine was incurably blinded in an accident a few years ago. The experience has, naturally enough, considerably dashed his spirits, and in some moods he is liable to talk depressively. Every Sunday he attends church in the village where he lives. One day, a cynical friend asked him: "Why do you go to church? Do you really believe what the preacher says?" The blind man thought for a moment, and then replied: "As I am now, I'm not of much use to anybody. I go to church just to show which side I am on."

This need to "show which side I am on" -- to affirm in some way one's retention of a basic faith in life -- can easily be dismissed by the cynic as a meaningless gesture of self-assertion against the Fates. But this disposition of the soul which we call 'faith,' has come to be acknowledged in modern psychiatry as a fundamental prompting from the deepest levels of the human consciousness. It stands as a basic spiritual mandate in the individual soul, a prerequisite not only to his development, but to his very survival as a human being.

When we look back into that matrix of creativeness which is the known history of man, we realize the incredible persistence of the human will towards survival for self and species. Further to this is the equally inescapable fact that this striving has consistently been towards life at a continuing higher level.

It is not difficult to understand how it came about that this unconquerable demand of the soul for the Good, has turned almost exclusively to the worship of a Universal Good as external to ourselves. Conditions often seem to frustrate completely the aspirations of our own inner being. Only a few, the Teachers of mankind, have by deep thought or deep inner experience, brought forward into relatively full consciousness, the awareness of this fundamental urge and its significance. Just how important it seemed to those Teachers is demonstrated, first, by the apparently superhuman efforts they made for its full realization, once they had begun to recognize its existence; and, second, by the tremendous sacrifices they were willing to make, for the enlightenment of others.

Any cynic may point disparagingly to the various religions as they are today, asking how one may find among their dogmatic disagreements the indications of a common origin and meaning in any universal terms. Certainly, the claim of any one of the religions to speak, alone, with the voice of God, would fail to be convincing. But when we see them each as an expression of this deeply-unconscious but fundamental urge of the human soul towards that Good which it envisions as above and beyond itself, and towards which it fumbles by an incredibly arduous process of trial-and-error -- only then, perhaps, may we see in these religions their mutual connection with the prompting of the divine spark in the individual, the "light that shines in the darkness," the as yet commonly unacknowledged divine element in the being of every human being.

It is certainly not for the student of the Universal Wisdom, in any case, to indulge in complacent criticisms of formal religions. Any one of us may lose touch with the greater realization, in favor of the lesser; and come, well-tutored though he may be, into the level of apathy and lack of courage, when faced with life today in this troubled world.

Yet when we dwell in thought on the Invocation: "O my divinity . . . Thou livest in the heart-life of all things," do not the words carry our consciousness into a depth of ourselves where we find an ever-dynamic response, positive yet relaxed, from out the very core of our being? And is not this being-center of ourselves the touchstone, the point of ultimate reference, the masterkey to creativeness in all our living? We realize that these words stand (uniquely, one might venture to say) as the great message from the beginning of time, accompanying man on his long evolutionary journey and, by implication, forecasting the journey's end.

One has heard that Katherine Tingley used to say to her pupils "You are a god, be that god." For some who were ready, the words acted as a catalyst upon their whole lives thenceforward. Others, no doubt, found encouragement to take up the task of self-discovery -- the beginning of the realization of the Self in the self.

Man, we are told, is at the very turning point of his spiritual journey. All that has passed, through times gone by, will in the future be seen as the gestation period of the god-seed within the human. The human norm of today is sufficiently developed, sufficiently experienced, sufficiently tutored by Teachers and their recorded advice to take up the challenge of his own being, to bring forth from out of his own humanity the greater being who will, as the cycles of time roll on, progressive become, by evolution from within outwards, more and more a go among gods.

Such a statement, considered only at the surface level of the mind can easily be dismissed as mere wishful thinking, as an absurd invitation to the individual to reach out and take control of the universe. The concept of man as an incipient god, however, is based on a rational acceptance that man has within him a new level of being (and consequently of life meaning) comparable in its significance to that which today raises him higher than the animals. The widespread striving which confuses life today is evidence that great numbers are already deeply conscious of a pressing need to do better with their lives than heretofore. To move from darkness towards light has a kind of Tower of Babel effect on the untutored soul, we discover, sometimes to our disquietude. Many others, more thoughtful, are, like my blinded acquaintance, not sure of anything except that they feel inwardly they need to ally themselves with the creative, the evolving principle, in life.

Thus one may consider that while the day-to-day issues and problems now facing all men in the world are of importance in that they must be met and answers found at the best possible level of understanding, the final answer does not lie here: to live in darkness is to find in our life affairs a labyrinth of unchartable ways; and we are not yet in the light.

The final answer lies with the Atmic center within, whose mandate today, as through all time, is: "Strive towards ever higher levels of your own being, and the rest will be granted unto you." Realizing this, we may add our own strong impulse of will to the endeavor, while quietly doing our daily duty without grudging and without anxiety, confidently awaiting the outcome.

If and when we think towards the inner god, let us not waste time in speculating vainly upon the possible powers and achievements awaiting us in the future. We have pointed out that to live in darkness makes of life a labyrinth of unchartable ways, and that we are as yet only reaching tentatively towards the light. The evidence of our progress will lie in our becoming aware of new avenues towards a greater life, which we shall find opening up before us. We shall also, no doubt, see the obstacles blocking these ways, and -- does it not follow? -- turn again, like willing laborers, to the pick-and-shovel work which is the part of the god-man in the great Labor of the Universe.

(From Sunrise magazine, November 1973; copyright © 1973 Theosophical University Press)

Spiritual Path Menu