THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 6, April, 1963
(Pages 151-152; Size: 7K)
[Article number (6) in this Q&A Department]
Man, "the most intelligent being in the universe," seems also to be the most unhappy being in the universe. In our present era it is a rare moment when we are not oppressed by vague anxieties or boredom or a devastating sense of loneliness. If we really do represent the spearhead of evolution, why have we so little sense of our own magnificent, heroic destiny?
Heroes are scarce these days. Subways run from Bleecker to Bronx without encountering Trojans or lions. We live safely and comfortably "in furnished souls"; if we should take a stroll at night down some fashionable city street and happen to see the moon between two skyscrapers, we might be so unused to the sight as to wonder, like the Spanish poet Jimenez, "is it the moon or just an advertisement of the moon?"
This feeling of disconnection from the vital currents of life seems to be a primary cause of our unhappiness. We cannot survive indefinitely, unnourished by our spiritual nature: a world of cut flowers is a doomed world. Anxious, bored, lonely, we have forgotten the glorious promise of life; or rather, we have half-forgotten it, for as long as we allow ourselves to live a cut-and-dried statistical existence, and do not dare to be audaciously alive, we will never "rest in peace," nor will we find lasting happiness. Happiness is an active, not a passive, state; it is in fact a state of war, a spirit of ultimate defiance in the face of futility and apathy. So long as we are not vitally alive, but merely, as Cummings puts it "undead," nothing can seem very real to us except our own misery.
Eric Fromm speaks of two kinds of anxiety, only one of which is pathological. The other anxiety is the healthy positive reaction to the dangerous adventure of living. Most of the time, our anxiety is the self-centered pathological kind. And yet the other anxiety, the restlessness of the soul, is never wholly absent either. John Cowper Powys, in The Art of Happiness, tells us that there "remains something in us -- call it by what name you will -- that relucts at subsiding into the role of patient labourers for the good of posterity. Eliminate all superstition, all 'other-worldliness,' all sense of 'sin,' be as sceptical as you please about God and Immortality, there still exists, in the most regimented and docile ego, an intellectual restlessness, a stirring of the imagination, a troubling of the waters, a terrible and dangerous questioning, that cannot be allayed by any national or even by any international pre-occupation. The soul within us is a microcosm, not a micropolis; and is born for the happiness that flows from a cosmic, not a political or economic life."
This drive of the soul admits of no compromise; in making our daily compromises, we make inevitable a deep unhappiness. Cut off from our cosmic roots, we cower before the enormous creatures we call "the State," and "Society." The individual, feeling hopelessly trapped and frustrated, has become "reasonable," and demands from the universe little more than a comfortable corner to hide in. Perhaps the only reason that nuclear war has become a constant threat to mankind is that we have become so separated from a meaningful life that we no longer care very much about continuing it. How can life be valuable if it is not also meaningful? Ugly petty facts surround us all the time, and most of us feel unable to see the forest for the trees, the stars for the buildings, the cosmic Truth for the muddle of ideas.
Nor can we escape merely by making "facts" more beautiful; our own cage of flesh is quite portable and would be with us even on the solitary mountain-top. What is necessary is that we make the escape within ourselves, that we take all our own dreariness with a grain of salt, and perhaps with a touch of humor. We ought, in fact, to recognize that our persistent unhappiness is a sin against the whole universe. After all the æons it took for nature to build the human form, this focal-point of self-conscious evolution, what right have we to spend our days immersed in the despondent tedium of non-essentials? Besides, everything is intimately related on inner planes, and so our own attitudes affect all other beings. Powys does not mince any words on this subject. "This invisible world of countless human intelligences, linked together by magnetic vibrations, receives a downward pull from the obstinate unhappiness of any single human soul." One might conclude, therefore, that it is really our duty to be "happy," no matter what our circumstances. But this happiness can be achieved only by constant striving, by a refusal to accept reasonable compromises concerning the destiny of our soul, and by the attainment of the fearlessness of spirit.
[Article number (7) in this Q&A Department]
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