THEOSOPHY, Vol. 38, No. 8, June, 1950
(Pages 353-356; Size: 11K)
(Number 1 of a 10-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]


"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."--Chinese
THE familiar proverbs and axioms handed down through the ages have always exerted a profound influence upon human thought and action. Some of them are as powerful as the scriptures themselves. The by-words of a race or nation form an essential part of its cultural structure, more basic perhaps than ideas acquired through education, for they are common to the whole people and are universally applicable. Men live by maxims or "sayings," as they are called. Few individuals have either the time or ability to think out and codify the solutions to their problems in terms of the higher learning, but everyone can grasp a proverb. Everyone can perceive the truth of a simple adage, though he may not be able always to say why it is true. And it is these intuitive perceptions of great ideas, on the part of masses of people, that give a race its character.

The idea expressed in the above aphorism that the whole journey is contained in the first step refers undoubtedly to the importance of beginnings, to the necessity of getting off to a right start in anything that one undertakes. Every logician knows, for example, that before proceeding to a consideration of any proposition, it is first necessary to check the premises upon which the proposition rests. Otherwise, however logical the reasoning may be, the conclusions arrived at will be false. Every engineer knows that the foundations of a building must be strong and proportioned, else the whole structure will topple in time. The farmer is acutely aware of the fact that the success of autumn crops depends upon the initial steps taken in the spring. So it is in all walks of life -- the ceremonies attached to the breaking of ground for a new building, the well-wishing of friends at the commencement of a business venture, the opening addresses of educators marking the start of a school term, the fitting prefaces and dedications of new books -- all are based upon the idea of the importance of beginnings. All are for the purpose of striking a key-note, which, it is hoped, will carry through to fulfillment and success. How account for this apparently universal tradition? How explain the fact that people everywhere have an almost superstitious feeling about the importance of the first step, so much so that an unfavorable start is oftentimes looked upon as ominous -- portending misfortune, hardship, failure?

In The Ocean of Theosophy, William Q. Judge makes the statement that "at the first moments of the solidification of this globe the mass of matter involved attained a certain and definite rate of vibration which will hold through all variations in any part of it until its hour for dissolution comes." Elsewhere in the Ocean it is stated that from the time a person is born, his natural life-term for that incarnation (barring accidents) is fixed, and that the cohesive forces of the soul hold the principles together until that hour arrives. Is it not true also that the seed contains in itself from the beginning the whole pattern of the future tree? And is it not a well-known fact that once a musical note is struck its vibrations will not and cannot change into those of another note? Evidently even Nature herself makes observances of beginnings.

"The pioneering of any enterprise," it is said, "contains the soul of it." Within the first step of a journey is wrapped the whole motive, purpose and plan of the venture. The first step contains the sum-total of knowledge gained from past experience, plus whatever of Will or determination the traveller is able to muster for the present and future. In other words, the Cause underlying an endeavor is dynamic and alive at the moment of beginning -- more so perhaps than at any other point in the journey. Success in the undertaking depends upon the measure in which that Cause is kept alive and vibrant throughout. It depends upon the frequency with which the initial impulse is re-energized in heart and mind, the degree of adherence to purpose and plan.

On the other hand, why is it that, even with a seemingly good start, failure sometimes results? It is because men forget the first step, or lose the spirit in which that step was taken. They lose sight of the life-giving Cause behind their endeavor, and thus impoverish the soul of it. Loss of soul spells loss of all. In an age of materialism, the human mind is inclined to pay more attention to effects than to the Causes behind effects.

Insignificant details oftentimes absorb the consciousness to the complete forgetting of one's initial resolve. When a project is new and enthusiasm high, Cause alone is paramount in mind and heart. But once effects begin to show their faces, the power of the initiatory is often lost or diverted. Effects of actions performed possess power to glamorize the mind, to cast an hypnotic spell over brain and senses, and thus divert the soul from its wonted purposes. Such is the fascinating power of Maya, or illusion.

Some people have been known to delay a recognized duty with the excuse of being unfit, weak, and therefore unlikely to succeed. Holding this attitude, their weakness remains. None but the Sage has knowledge to foresee, in any given case, all the elements involved in an undertaking. No one has the power to call up in advance the total energy needed for the whole task -- nor is it necessary. But everyone has the power to start. Everyone can take the first step, and thus using the strength he has, greater power results. A determined effort to follow duty puts the individual in magnetic rapport with the universal reservoir of force, and opens up channels through which Will may flow.

The Western mind has become so ingrained with the false religious idea that man is a weak, miserable sinner that the polarity of its whole nature is downward. Few individuals have any conception at all of their higher capabilities. Few have the courage to key themselves to the potentialities of their god-like natures, and thus to fructify their hidden spiritual germs of power and usefulness. Good intentions wither and die, simply because we're afraid to try. Potential genius contents itself with mediocrity because it does not take the first step to nobler doing, because it does not realize that the first produces the second, the second the third, and so on to the very goal. The word try is written over the portal that leads to the path of spiritual knowledge.

A group of students who aspired to make their mark in the world of letters are reported to have approached a successful author, and asked his advice. They wanted to know his opinion as to the key to success, and also if he would tell them something that would help toward the realization of their endeavor. He said: "If you have something of value to say, and feel an impulse to write, then the most helpful thing I can tell you is to start writing."

Exercise Will -- initiate action -- assume the position of Doer of that which you desire to achieve! And then, as Robert Crosbie says, depend upon the power inherent within to express what you know and are. There is a magic potency in the first step taken toward a noble end in view.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


I am glad that you are seeing that quietness and calmness under all conditions is the only state that permits of one's best work and judgment. It also evidences strength and permits its expression; it gives confidence to others, and helps them; whereas, if one is himself disturbed, others see his weakness, and he does not get the confidence he might have had from them, nor, in fact, is he really strong. He is being continually thrown off his balance and says and does things for which he is afterwards sorry; then has to spend more time and effort in making amends, thus signing and sealing his weakness. "Be restrained, be liberal, be merciful; it is the death of selfishness." Strive for this.

Resolve to speak quietly and with right feeling; don't be impatient with anything or any body; don't complain for yourself, no matter what happens; bear your ills patiently; be solicitous of the ills of others. It would be well if you would be more sober and serious in thought: don't joke about persons, or disparage in any way; don't joke about serious things; there is a deep undercurrent of life that is utterly lost to one who only swims on the surface. Always consider the bearing and effect of what you are about to say or do, and think of others first, last and all the time. Perhaps this is a large order, but it is too true that you will have to fill it sooner or later, and the sooner is infinitely the better. Be helpful, but do not call for help for yourself any more than you can possibly avoid. 


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"One affliction is better than a thousand exhortations."
(Part 2 of a 10-part series)

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