As One Grows Older

Geoffrey Farthing – England

[In this thought-probing article in The Theosophist (Adyar), December 1983, the author’s openings paragraphs challenge the reader with questions that should be of interest to every student of Theosophy. Space permits quoting only these, and then the final paragraphs of the article.]

We sometimes read in the Section magazines how our members found the Theosophical Society andwhat it means to them. But how often do we read of how their view of it, and its meaning for them, changes as they grow older and can look back over many years of study and contemplation?

We are told that our Theosophy must change with the times we live in or its message will not appeal to the people of our age or of future ones. How can we reconcile this with H.P.B.’s view of Theosophy – that it is an expression of “the eternal verities”? Does it not look as if, although presentations of Theosophy may – even must – change, and certainly that our views of it may alter, “the eternal verities” are themselves immutable? But what are these eternal verities? Many of us spend our lives finding out – that is, if we are interested enough.

Herein lies a certain tragedy. We start out with enthusiasm, having discovered some reasonable answers in the popular theosophical writings to questions which, until then, had remained unsolved. Supplementing these explanations was the background idea of an “inner government of the world” composed of certain august Beings; and there was the further possibility of us, ourselves, being able to qualify to be of service to one of these Beings in some close personal relationship. But the qualifications were difficult to attain. It meant such a purification of our personal life as to be almost impossible to attain in our private circumstances and with our present limitation of strength.

Further, the great doctrines which had originally fired us remained a set of ideas primarily centering on Reincarnation and Karma. As we pursued our reading, these ideas were set – possibly rather vaguely – against a background of an enormous but incomprehensible cosmogony and a complicated ‘constitution of man’ which told us of various levels of being with particular reference to our Higher Self. This latter, for most of us, came to mean ourselves as we are now normally but in our better moments of high aspiration, spiritual intent and a pleasant feeling of companionship with our associates.

Except that our relationships may have become more intimate and meaningful and dear, and our Theosophy a comfortable sustaining background to our lives, does anything change, does it really grow, as we grow older? Do we not become somewhat disenchanted with age? Does our vision of the Cosmos enlarge; do we really begin to sense the wholeness and the oneness of ‘creation’.? And what about creation? The world and the heavens exist and we ask who made them; surely someone? They could not justhave appeared. How far, then, has our thinking moved from the common religious idea of a Creator and Governor of the Universe? . . . [And now the last paragraphs:]

. . . We cannot even get a glimpse of the tremendousmessage of Theosophy as given to us by the Masters without an enthusiastic application to its study. We shall learn fascinating facts about the origin and workings of the Cosmos, how our earth came to be and how our humanity fits into the grand scheme of things. Above all, we shall so modify our perceptive faculties that we shall be able to free ourselves from the limitations of total identification with our personal selves and be able, fearlessly, to explore the infinite spaces of Theosophical truth.

Although this is not the object of its attainment, this expansion of consciousness has an effect on our personal selves and our personal lives. No longer can their concerns have the significance for us they once had. With our new-found free consciousness, no longer will we crave a personal survival. Reincarnation will be seen as an endless cyclic process within the total Cosmic process. Karma, in a personal sense, can never enthrall our consciousness again, even if we cannot avoid its consequences. We see it as the way the vast scheme works. And we are vouchsafed some certainties. “It could not possibly be otherwise,” used to be the saying of one Theosophist grown old in years.

These visions of the ‘integral whole’ bring other realizations – the wholeness of humanity is not only seen but sensed in a way that is beyond description. It is a unity, in itself, with all of us as units, identical with the Unit, which is, however, not a sum of its individual parts. Humanity, to paraphrase one of H.P.B.’s famous sayings, is one thing; one with all creation. Every human being is not only a part of it but is It Itself; but we need a developed ‘Theosophical’ faculty to see that this is so. As one grows older in study and striving, so this faculty grows and one knows. The great ‘picture’ of Theosophy becomes an ever-deepening part of our conscious selves. It, so to speak, grows ‘inwards’ as well as in extent.

Another aspect of growing older in theosophical study and application is that, with time, the aspects of the subject – necessarily studied separately to start with – begin to fit together and relate to each other so as to form a whole. As the Master says in Letter 13 (The Mahatma Letters): “You will find necessary the synthetic method ...” Without an ability to put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, we shall never see the complete picture but only guess at it from what we have learned of its parts.

One of the most important of our synthetic visions is when we see the import of the Hermetic axiom, “As is the inner so is the outer, as it is above so it is below.” We then sense the meaning of such sayings as, “man is the microcosm” and “the fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over- Soul”, and “we are filled with gratitude to our Teachers.”

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