Heading Upstream

by Grace F. Knoche

"No being can cease to be, the Eternal lives in all," said Goethe, for truth which links the enlightened of every age dwells in the human heart. The poet urges us to seek within and claim our heritage. Then, and only then, will we trust ourselves and our perceptions, seeing the universe with fresh eyes. By pursuing the pathway to truth we may receive the greatest blessing -- "For the most desirable profession / Is to blaze a path for noble souls." [Selections from Goethe's poem are at the end of the article.] Here is the essence of the theosophic message.

What does theosophy mean today? Merely a series of profound philosophical ideas, or is it rather a way of living? Theosophy has had many names in many lands, for always in every era there are "noble souls" who offer the totality of aspiration and thought-power in search of the holy grail. But far from feeling apart from humanity, the questing student should first and foremost be a student of life, of the world, of the perils that face mankind and of the promise that exists in the souls of men and women everywhere.

It is of record also that those who set their energies and will toward the light soon find themselves going against the current. In the Celtic tradition certain "fish" endowed with mystical insight were called Salmon of Knowledge -- an apt metaphor, for salmon must swim upstream, often against rapids, in order to fulfill their purpose. But earnest souls in their endeavor to go upstream must not forget their fellows. If they do not crest the rapids for many lives, it does not matter; success lies in the effort, the direction, which must be upstream, while giving a helping hand all along the way.

Beginning in 1875, H. P. Blavatsky stated once again in clear and powerful language the same venerable truths of which Goethe speaks. One of a long line of transmitters sent by her teachers, she cast into the thought-atmosphere of the world innovative ideas which would revolutionize the thinking of mankind. Chief among these was that we are a oneness -- a simple concept, but one which has not been sufficiently lived or we would not have had war after war among the nations of the world. She founded a society whose basic objective is to form a nucleus of men and women dedicated to the cause of universal brotherhood. The success of her labors is seen in the fact that to speak of brotherhood today seems almost a commonplace, though, alas, it is not yet a living experience in human relationships.

HPB also encouraged the investigation and examination of the spiritual lineage of all peoples in order to eradicate the conceit that we are the chosen ones, we have the true religion, we honor the one and only God. Even a casual investigation of others' traditions broadens our horizons. It is a thrilling experience to trace the same golden threads running through the world's many expressions of the human spirit -- religious, philosophic, mythological, and so-called primitive. We feel at once a sympathy with those who cherish these truths; this makes for a feeling of oneness, of understanding, a linkage of destiny.

Had we the ability to look down upon the world-consciousness with a range of perception of 360, we would be astonished at what has happened since HPB, almost singlehandedly, battled a world very much against the least breakthrough of independent inquiry. After little more than a century theosophic ideas have penetrated every stratum of human experience so that in practically every country individuals are turning their crafts upstream, fired by the ennobling ideals she restated -- though they may never have heard of either Blavatsky or theosophy.

The task of self-transformation, however, is by no means accomplished. As a humanity, we have much still to do -- for all who are "upbound" there are many thousands drifting aimlessly like flotsam and jetsam. There is a great need for a clearer perspective on the meaning of existence and for a knowledge of universal principles which Goethe intuited, and on which H. P. Blavatsky wrote extensively.

What, then, is our task as students of this "god-wisdom" or theosophia, once the common resource of all mankind? It is what the spiritual mentors of every race and age have taught: live the ideals and teachings that over and over have been given, and in the living of them spontaneously reach out with hand and heart to all who cross our path. As we listen and observe the thinking and doings of our fellow humans, we may discover that despite the gale-tossed seas many more than we imagined are moving on an upstream course, be it in canoes differing in shape and color from our own.

The theosophic philosophy has applicability to every facet of human experience. The long perspective of many lives, with absolute justice and compassion inherent in every aspect of nature, enables us to view from a distance the pluses and minuses of our character and our life, much as an artist steps back in order to see more clearly the play of light and shadow on his canvas. Just so, theosophy gives perspective to the manifold challenges we each must face, and it is this perspective we would share with humanity. Obviously, as students of these grand ideas we are no better or worse than anyone else, but we do feel a profound responsibility to help "blaze a path for noble souls."

No being can cease to be!
The Eternal lives in all . . .
Truth has long been known,
Uniting noble spirits; . . .
Turn inward now without delay,
Therein the Center you will find
Which no noble soul should doubt. . . .
And as from of old in the stillness
The philosopher and poet created
A work of love after his own will,
So will you receive the greatest blessing,
For the most desirable profession
Is to blaze a path for noble souls. -- Goethe, Vermächtnis (Legacy)

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine February/March 1996; © 1996 Theosophical University Press)

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