THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 2, December, 1962
(Pages 35-36; Size: 6K)


[Article number (2) in this Q&A Department]

CONFRONTED all our lives with physical appearances, we are likely to have some difficulty comprehending the idea that reality lies not in these external forms, but in an invisible and intangible substratum of spirit. How are we to understand this basic doctrine, and overcome the illusion of the senses?

The question is a crucial one, for until each individual is able to answer it satisfactorily, all of life will remain enigmatic. This is perhaps because physical objects, when divorced from spirit, carry little meaning. It is not too much to say that when we cannot see beyond appearances, we are alone and lost, whereas when we do see underlying meanings, we are at home, no matter where we are. For example, we may be riding a subway, and be unable to sense anything but the rumble of steel on steel, of fact on senseless fact; but then, at another time, we may see a lone tree writhing in an autumn wind, and suddenly start with a human insight. It would not seem that the difference is so much in the particular forms (though certainly some forms are more symbolically suggestive), but in ourselves.

Clearly, to say that the physical world is the world of appearances is not to say that it doesn't exist, but simply that it does not exist "of itself" -- that it is the result of non-physical causes, and depends on these causes for meaningfulness. It seems, too, that we recognize the existence and importance of these unseen causes, even unconsciously, all the time. We instinctively sense the "auras" of the people around us, and are drawn to some and repelled by others despite physical appearances. Then too, why should it be that some feel a kind of depression at Christmas time, if not that they sense that the pure clean reality of the "Christmas spirit" is being exploited and violated by heartless commercialism? Or again, do not the people we see around us seem quite unreal until we have come to know their aspirations, their intangible warmth?

To take an example, we find that the problem of seeing through appearances may exist even in a Theosophical lodge. The first Object is "To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity...." In reading these words, one might expect that such a nucleus, if it is to grow to universal proportions, must be a hard bright flame, a brilliant seed of love. Yet as one looks about at his fellow-students, seemingly ordinary people with ordinary problems and preoccupations, one begins to wonder. Everyone is friendly, to be sure, but there does not appear to be anything extraordinary about their friendliness. Thinking in this way, however, it is possible to overlook several important points -- for example the fact that an Object is an ideal striven for, not necessarily a present reality. It is possible for such a nucleus to be formed by students of Theosophy for the simple reason that in Theosophy alone is to be found the rationale for brotherhood, the doctrine of the sevenfold constitution of man -- in short, the means by which one may eventually see beyond all appearances and recognize the core of soul in every individual. Theosophy helps one to recognize that core and to comprehend its nature. Further, there may be a deeper relationship between students than mere surface friendliness, holding, as they do, to common devotion to the Teachings. This devotion is no small thing, and to entertain these great ideas, to discuss them and ponder them, is automatically to disseminate them. As these ideas circulate, a greater and greater number of receptive minds may "catch fire," and become in their turn better able to distinguish the appearance from the indwelling spirit. It is in this way that a nucleus grows.

This is not to say that students have no need to improve in their ability to regard their fellow-students (and their fellow-men in general) from the point of view of soul. There is always the tendency toward separative thinking, a certain inertia of the heart which must be overcome if we are ever to meet our fellows "soul to soul." Then, too, there is the fear which others feel -- as much a fear of being seen as of not being seen, as much of becoming "vulnerable" as of remaining anonymous. Yet "for once, then, something," as we are told in a remarkable poem by Robert Frost -- if once we glimpse another human spirit, if we sense that "something," we can never again feel totally alienated from life. By constantly striving to view men as souls, we may at last achieve the conscious realization that there is, after all, no "ordinary" human being, any more than there is an ordinary sunset, an ordinary star, an ordinary aspiration.

Next article:
(January 1963)
[Article number (3) in this Q&A Department]

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