MAN'S INNER CENTER OF CALM
by Gladys Lawler
THROUGHOUT the ages of man's history, the quality of calmness, of quietness, of serenity of spirit, has been associated with the thought of the spiritually developed person. The scriptures of the great religions are full of this idea. There is the beautiful story of the Jesus-Christ who calmed the stormy sea, saying, "Peace; be still." "Be still and know that I am God," sang the psalmist. To know "the peace that passeth understanding" is spoken of as an ideal toward which to strive.
Yet, as we look about us, most of the people we see do not manifest evidence of possessing this peace- this serenity-in their daily speech and actions. As one of our philosophers has so aptly said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation !"
One is lead to wonder why? What is the hindrance? I would like to advance an idea for your consideration- an idea of a basic cause for most of the unrest, the turmoil, the confusion, the unhappiness in people's lives. That cause may be stated in one small word: fear.
A long time ago a Great Teacher said to His disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid . . ." That was sage advice but mankind has largely disregarded it. Today we live in an age of fears, anxieties, worries, doubts. At this time, it is our purpose to examine together, briefly, some of the things men most fear and then to take each in order and subject it to the scrutiny of certain teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, to see what healing influence (to use a medical simile) the "X-ray of Divine Wisdom" may have on this malignant growth which we call fear. Need men suffer from fear? Can its growth be arrested? Can it be cured? How can we arrive at that wonderful center of calm?
What do men fear? For purposes of discussion, let us divide our common fears into two main classifications: those that cluster around the fear of death, and those that surround the fear of life. These are very general categories, but under them can be grouped, we believe, all the major causes of men's fears, Let us discuss first the fear of death.
Concerning this matter of death and what, if anything, comes after it, there seem to be several schools of thought, each with its own attendant fears. Let us examine them, one at a time, in our mental laboratory.
First, the materialist: His thesis is, "Death is the end. No one can prove there is anything more. We live; we die; that is all."
Second, the fundamental religionist: He says, "I believe there is a life after death in another world; a life where man will either be happy in heaven or tormented in hell for all eternity, as the result of his deeds or misdeeds in this one brief life on earth."
Third, the agnostic: He simply says, 'I honestly don't know. I don't believe anyone can know,"
Under whichever classification one comes in his thinking, he falls heir to certain fears which are inherent in its basic philosophy. Let us examine each of them in order, (Parenthetically, we must state that there is a fourth classification, but that, we will discuss later.)
First, the materialist. The greatest fear of the materialist, it would seem, is the fear of annihilation, of non-being, of ceasing to exist. It is almost impossible for the mind of man to conceive of becoming a nothingness, like the flame of a candle extinguished by the wind of death. It is a terrifying thought, indeed.
Of what use, then, are all our cares and struggles? What incentive do we have for character development? For altruism? For goodness of any kind? For development of qualities, skills, arts, if this mind and intellect are to be cast on the rubbish heap to perish with the expendable physical body? If the poet who wrote, ". . . the paths of glory end but in the grave ..." believed that, of what purpose was his poetic gift? Certainly this would be a great cause for fear: a life of purposelessness, a life of futility.
Second, the fundamental religionist, who believes in the immortality of the human soul and conceives of an eternity of bliss or torment. Does he have fear? I say he does; that his greatest fear is the fear of eternal punishment. Not withstanding the fact that his religion sets forth rules and regulations telling him how to avoid it, that fear often persists. I once knew a man, a very devoted, religious man, who spent his whole life trying to live and to teach his religion, who used to say on numerous occasions, "My greatest fear is that when I have done all I can, it still won't be enough- that I may yet somehow fail." The fear was still there!
Then third, there is the agnostic who doesn't know; he is afraid of that very unknown, like a child who is afraid of the dark, without rhyme or reason.
Common to any or all of these schools of thought there is a fourth basic fear of death: that of separation from those we love-those to whom we have anchored our affections.
The fifth great fear of death seems to be tied up with the fear of being hurt, the fear of pain, especially if one has been present at a death bed where there has appeared to be a great struggle before the end. These, it seems to me, summarize the most widespread fears which plague men's minds, and all the more so because they are not such subjects as one usually talks about,
Now let us examine how a knowledge of certain philosophical (or theosophical) concepts can affect these so common fears of mankind. I am going to make a statement which I believe with all my heart to be true, and then endeavor to show you how and why. This is the statement: A thorough understanding of certain concepts of Theosophy, the Ancient Wisdom, can eliminate all the fears we have just enumerated. That is a very big and sweeping statement. Let us examine it for a moment, Let us take our category, one by one.
1. The fear of ceasing to exist: This viewpoint is impossible to hold when once one understands and knows the continuity of consciousness- that death is but an incident, an often recurring incident, in an endless life; a life which is an evolvement, an unlocking and an unfolding of man's latent divinity.
There is an old story of a missionary who was seeking to convert a Saxon king to his religion. As he talked with the monarch in the vast hail of his ancient castle, a small bird flew in through an open window out of the darkness, circled the lighted room, then flew out through the opposite window into the darkness again. "Your Majesty," said the missionary, "that is a perfect example of what I have been saying to you. The life of man is like that bird. From the darkness of birth he comes into the light of earth for a brief span and then disappears again into the darkness of death, but always he is on the wing!"
Theosophy holds a concept of eternity, not only as that which has no imaginable ending, but also as that which has no conceivable beginn ing; that which was, which is, and evermore shall be. It holds that the soul of man is immortal and that its growth and splendor know no limit. As one of our writers has phrased it, "We are verbs, not nouns, for always we are on the wing."
This has been beautifully stated in Sir Edwin Arnold's immortal poem, The Song Celestial, in these words:
"Never the Spirit
The Spirit shall cease to be, never!
Never the time it was not;
End and beginning are dreams!
Birthless and changeless and deathless
Abideth the Spirit forever;
Death shall not touch it at all,
Dead though the house of it seems."
No, there is no fear of ceasing to be, with this philosophy.
2, Let us examine our second fear, promulgated by many earnest, religious teachers: Eternal reward in heaven or eternal punishment in hell after death. Does Theosophy teach there is a heaven and a hell? Oh, yes, but not as places, rather as states of consciousness; and not as eternal, but only so long as they are necessary in the continuing plan of man's evolution, Nothing is forever, save the One Life of God. Everything moves, changes, evolves, with the great Divine Rhythm of Being.
The tragedy of the doctrine of eternal damnation stems, according to this viewpoint, from a mistaken idea of Deity: a vindictive Deity. The concept of eternal hell as punishment, from which there is no recourse, no escape, instigated, supposedly, by a God of love, by a Father who loves His children and is interested in their development to divine maturity, such a concept is utterly unthinkable to the rational mind. To attribute such deliberate cruelty to a mortal parent would brand him as a monster of sadism. Then how dare we think of Deity in such terms?
Eternal punishment? No! Punishment at all, (if by punishment is meant a penalty imposed upon one from the outside), is outside the realm of theosophical philosophy. Instead, we hold the concept of the working out of natural law; the same universal law which holds the planets in their orbits and regulates the marvelously intricate mechanisms of the universe: the inevitable consequences which follow every deed- the impersonal, inexorable and implacable reaction which follows every action.
Man creates his own heavens and his own hells! By his actions he makes them and by his actions he dissolves them. If a ball is bounced against a wall, the force of the rebound will be in direct proportion to the energy expended in the original pitch. Action-reaction: this is the basic law of nature.
If I put my hand into the fire, I am burned. If I jump off the roof, I fall and I am hurt. No one is punishing me: it is strictly between me and the roof-between me and the fire. The Law is there and cannot be by-passed. One could multiply examples endlessly. The same is true in the realm of the emotions, the mind and the spirit. There is but one Law.
The Biblical injunction "Cast thy bread upon the waters for it shall return to thee after many days' is a statement of great wisdom, showing an understanding of this basic law of the universe. We are all bread-casters. 'What we send out from us returns to us inevitably, even though it may take "many days" or many years, or even many lives. "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
How does this concept eliminate the fear of punishment? First, because once really understood, it revolutionizes our behavior. Once he understands the law, the intelligent man cooperates. Then, when the hells of our own making do come to us, we know they are deserved; we know they are for our learning and our growth; and we further know that when we have learned that lesson, that particular hell will end! One can go, unafraid, through the darkest tunnel if he sees a glimmer of light at the end.
3. So much, for the moment, on the fear of punishment. Now for our third fear: the fear of the unknown. Psychologists tell us it is always the unknown and the inexplicable that cause fear. A sudden noise startles us in the darkness of the night . . . our hearts leap in fear. Is someone entering the house? A thousand conjectures flash across our minds. Our bodies grow rigid; our hearts beat faster; if we only knew . . . but not knowing, we are afraid. The explanation may be very simple: perhaps the wind blew a door shut; but as long as we do not know, we are afraid. Only one thing can banish the fear: knowledge!
So with the fear of the unknown after death; Theosophy brings knowledge with which to dispel it. The unknown may become the known - at least, to a certain degree. Now, how can anyone know anything about the after death state? Knowledge may come through several avenues.
We have the testimony of numbers of people whose latent, divine powers have been sufficiently developed for them to see, with clearer eyes, through the veil that separates our physical existence from that of the subtle or spiritual states, Clairvoyant (clear-seeing) investigators have shared with us a vast amount of detail concerning the after-death states of human consciousness, There is available a wealth of literature on the subject for those who are interested in pursuing it further.
I would like to recommend a splendid and most thought-provoking book The imprisoned Splendor by Dr. Raynor C. Johnson, of Queen's College University in Melbourne, Australia, a distinguished physicist. The book is described as "An approach to reality based upon the significance of data drawn from the fields of natural science, psychical research and mystical experience." Impressively and clearly he, as a scientist, in a thoroughly scientific manner, expounds much of the knowledge which has come to mankind concerning survival after death gleaned in these three fields.
Schopenhauer once said, "The man who denies the fact of clairvoyance is not entitled to be called a skeptic, he is merely ignorant."
Theosophy advances the idea that man can know by direct experience if he is willing to subject himself to the training necessary to be able to contact the truth which is within him. This is by no means a new idea, It has been advanced for ages by the sages, the seers and the mystics.
One of the most beautiful statements of this age old truth is found in Robert Browning's "Paracelsus." It is upon one phrase of this famous poem that Dr. Johnson based the title of his book The Imprisoned Splendor.
'~Truth is within
it takes no rise from outward things,
whate'er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in..
This perfect, clear perception . . . which is truth.
.. and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way.
Whence the Imprisoned Splendor may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without."
Fear of the unknown is dispelled through knowledge, and the source of that knowledge is within ourselves!
4. Now let us examine the fear of being separated from those we love, Theosophy teaches that the ties of human affection stem from the One Divine Love which has its roots in eternity. Therefore, real love, which is spiritual, is immortal and is the greatest force for bringing and keeping together those souls who feel such love. Not only do we learn that those who love are together after death, but, to quote H. P. Blavatsky, "Spiritual, holy love is immortal, and the law of karma brings, sooner or later, all those who loved each other with such spiritual affection to incarnate once more in the same family group." The force of spiritual love is very real.
We learn that deep and sudden loves are usually not new, but the renewal of loves from past lives; that love finds expression through diverse relationships in various lives: parent and child, brother and sister, husband and wife, friend and friend, etc. There can be no fear of separation when this view is held.
5. What about the fear of pain? Of being hurt? Does it hurt to die? Clairvoyant investigators say, "No." "The so-called death agony is largely unconscious muscular reaction," says Bishop Hampton in his book Transition. "It is as natural to die as to be born. The new born child kicks, struggles and cries by muscular reaction, not because he is in pain." Hampton further says, "Pain comes only through resistance to transition. When one relaxes and lets go, it it pleasant and peaceful, like falling asleep. The accumulating carbon dioxide in the body acts as an anaesthetic, gradually producing unconsciousness."
In the moment before death, the dying person is granted a glimpse of his past life, a panorama of its events and their significance, so that the soul knows what it has garnered for its storehouse from that particular incarnation. Often there is great joy, glimpses of loved ones gone before, light and beauty. No, it does not hurt to die when one knows that the body is not the Self.
William Cullen Bryant in "Thanatopsis" describes the death without fear which is the happy fate of the man who knows:
That I may go,
Not like the quarry slave at night
Scourged to his dungeon,
But sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust,
Approach my grave as one who wraps
The draperies of his couch about him
And lies down to pleasant dreams."
We have briefly explored the idea that many of men's fears cluster around the subject of death; but there is another potent area for the same emotion which may be grouped around the general theme of fear of life.
On the surface, this may not seem to mean much, but when we consider life as the sum total of all of the experiences which come to a human being between birth and death, we realize that fear crouches in unexpected corners, ready to pounce upon our minds at the least provocation.
1. The whole vast business of insurance has been, in a manner of speaking, built upon one of these basic fears: the fear of want- of losing our material possessions. We insure our prop-city against fire, windstorm and theft. We insure our cars against being damaged by others or by our own carelessness. We insure our persons against accidents, illness, loss of employment, and even loss of life!
We worry about losing jobs, being involved in accidents, becoming ill and dependent, all of which would result in loss of financial security. We fear and we worry even in the midst of plenty. We fear because of our attitude toward our possessions.
There was a good story in the paper recently which illustrates this point. It was told as a joke, but there is also a vein of seriousness in it which we might think about. A real estate salesman was showing a house to a prospective buyer. He pointed out all the good features, but the buyer kept shaking his head. Finally the salesman said, "What is there about it that you do not like? Perhaps it could be altered." "I'm afraid not," responded the client. "It just won't do at all. You see, it doesn't have a room where I can store all the things I have that I don't need!"
Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, says:
"And what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And what is the fear of need, but need itself? Is not the dread of thirst when your well is full the thirst which is unquenchable ?" Mankind has that unquenchable thirst!
2. Then there is the fear of failure which manifests in many and devious forms; a fear which keeps us from realizing the best within us, The fear of not finding one's true work; of not having time to accomplish our aims; the fear of not measuring up to others in an age of keen competition; of being compared unfavorably with others: of criticism- what other people will say or think! These are hampering, of course, to positive, constructive action.
3- Then there is the awful fear of loneliness, of being alone, of growing old, of not being loved and appreciated; and with some, even of being bored because they can find no new frontiers to explore.
How can our wisdom banish fears like these? We submit that the whole area of fear of want, of loss, of becoming less, stems from the non-realization of the Oneness of Life. This is a basic tenet, the thesis, really, of our philosophy; All life is One Life; nothing can exist outside that One Life, which is at the same time the Life of God, the life of man and the life of all nature.
Great Teachers through the ages have known and taught this truth. St. Paul said, "In Him (God) we live and move and have our being". Jesus stated, "I and my Father are one". Lao Tse, the sage of ancient China, uttered these words, "If thou dost know that others are thyself, whom cans't thou hate?" Sri Krishna, the Hindu Christ, said in the Bhagavad Gita, "Having pervaded this universe with one fragment of Myself, I remain", Ouspensky, a more modern philosopher, in his Tertium Organum puts it this way: "Deity is the infinite in nature; the soul, is the infinite in man. Since there cannot be two infinities, they must be one and the same".
With this concept, comes the understanding that we have everything we need, that life progresses always from less to more, and that all power lies, potentially, within us.
Possessions for their own sake, then, lose their paramount appeal, become part of the illusion, the maya of material existence, and man knows himself to be spirit.
This does not mean that the spiritually minded man can have no possessions, but only that he learns to regard possessions in their true light and so to be happy with either loss or gain. Because he understood this, St. Paul could make the statement with perfect honesty, "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." There you have it: happy in prosperity, happy in adversity; this can be the fate of those who have learned to discriminate between the unreal and the real.
Knowledge of the great law, the law of Karma, (cause and effect) gives us a rational basis for this attitude. The law always moves for our ultimate good through many so-called adversities. Through illness, for instance, many a person's whole outlook on life has been altered, led into the paths of spirit, for the hardest impacts make the greatest impressions. We learn to welcome whatever comes and call it good.
This does not mean that we should not try to better conditions of health, of finances or of environment, but (and here is the crux of the matter) we are not fearful and unhappy while we are doing so; we put the emphasis on the effort rather than on the tangible and visible results. We learn to perceive that the real results lie in the improvement of faculty and character which comes to us through the effort expended. It has been truly said, "We never have too little and we never have too much,"
With the knowledge of the Oneness of Life, of man's latent and potential divine powers, and of the great universal law that guides man's evolution toward conscious union with the Divine, the fear of loss, in all its devious forms, disap-pears, for the Law always moves from less to more!
Now we come to consider the fear of failure, What about that bogie? He who comprehends the Ancient Wisdom has no fear of failure, for his philosophy is that all are destined to succeed; that "the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong" in the true sense of the word, for the hidden Divine Life in all cannot be eradicated nor destroyed and will at last lead each one to the fulfillment of life's purpose. God cannot fail!
This philosophy brings the conclusion that there is really no such thing as a mistake; there are only experiences. Also it makes this statement understandable: "No man is my friend and no man is my enemy; all alike are my teachers." There are no failures; only experiences, and the more experiences we have, the faster we progress toward the goal of human perfection.
There is a beautiful statement concerning this idea in a small book of unnamed authorship which I treasure, called The Way of the Servant. I'd like to share it with you:
"Seek not therefore to escape experience; to flee temptation will not overcome it. Shut not thyself from the impure and the vile. To fear contamination will but bring it near to thee. And if thou cans't not walk unsullied and untouched, temptation and a fall will bear thee greater fruit than the hedging of thyself from such experience. For my strength is born of suffering and my peace of motion and unrest."
Why be afraid of what other people think? Of what other people say about us? We do not have to measure up to any one else's standard -only to our own- only to keep our own spiritual water level rising higher and higher. We will want the other fellow to succeed and progress and to have all of the good things we ourselves have or want to have, for the so called other fellow is ourself, the same wine of the spirit poured into another vessel. The only criticism, then, with which we will be concerned is self-criticism which we will try to apply daily to our own actions.
We will have found our true work, which is the growth of the soul through experience, and the forms of the outward occupations of daily life will become relatively unimportant; they will be looked upon merely as stepping stones or as tools to use in our real work.
Fear of not having time will disappear as we exchange our concept of living in time for that of living in eternity. We will learn to see this "three score years and ten" of man's so-called allotted life as one day in school, so to speak, in a whole educational process. We are not afraid because we cannot learn all things in one day. We are satisfied if we have used that one day to the best of our ability, based upon the learnings of all the previous days, and laying the groundwork for higher learnings tomorrow in a more advanced class.
3. Our third major fear of life we have designated as the fear of loneliness. How could one ever be lonely, knowing himself to be a part of all the teeming life of the universe, not only of his fellow men but also of the lower kingdoms of nature, even the "inanimate" things?
Sensing and feeling oneself a part of the infinite Life of God, whether manifested in a Great Teacher or~ in the man across the street, in the eyes of a pet dog or the trill of a bird, in the rustle of wind in the leaves or the silent cry of a sunset, the Biblical injunction takes on new meaning: "Be still and know that I am God."
There is no loneliness in such a life, whether lived in the midst of a bustling urban community or in the silence of a hidden retreat, for all of life is within each of us; we have but to call it forth; all love, all beauty is ours for the using when we know! Know that "I am that Life in all."
We can never be without love, without appreciation, for each small effort on our part is seen and "appreciated" by the great law, and it will repay us in kind. But we will not be looking for payment! We will stop thinking about being loved and appreciated and concentrate on loving and appreciating! Loving will be the important thing, not being loved; giving, not receiving, for it is the giving that makes for our greatest growth. It is the giving that banishes the fear! As Gibran says, "Those who give all are the believers in life and their coffer is never empty..".
With this philosophy, one could never be bored with life; it would be unthinkable. There is an adventure around every corner, in each daily experience. There is a miracle of beauty and wonder in each common thing. One has only to concentrate upon it, meditate upon it, go deep within it to find the center and core of all life, and in every case it will be the same, no matter from what portion of the periphery we start. The art of meditation, of penetrating deep into the heart of every idea is a most exquisitely satisfying and fruitful experience.
What about the fear of growing old? We do fear it, you know. We use all the artifices we can find or invent to keep ourselves looking younger. We dislike to tell our age as if it were something shameful. There is no such thing as age when one is living in eternity! The number of years spent in one physical body means very little, for with the knowledge of the continuity of life in a succession of ever higher and higher forms, one always gains more than he loses, exchanging the old for the new.
The poets on many occasions have put this idea into such beautiful words, for the poets are oftimes the heralds of truth long before the duller minds of the common folk grasp the ideas. I would like to share with you two or three notable examples:
From The Bhagavad Gita:
"Nay, but as when
His worn out robes away,
And, taking new ones, sayeth,
'These will I wear today',
So putteth by the spirit
Lightly its garb of flesh,
And passeth to inherit
A residence afresh!"
From "My Creed" by John Masefield:
"I hold that when
a person dies, his soul returns again to earth;
Arrayed in some new flesh disguise, another mother gives him birth;
With steadier step and brighter brain, the old soul takes the road again."
From "The Chambered Nautilus" by Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"Build thee more
stately mansions, 0, my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou, at length, art free . .
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's Unresting sea."
Does all this seem too idealistic, too unreal? There is only one way to prove or disprove its reality and that way is to try it! No one else's knowledge is of any value to us unless we can make it our own. An idea is only a working hypothesis, a spring board, a place from which to launch forth. We urge no one to live by another's ideas, to believe anything because someone says so or because it is written in a book (even a book accounted sacred); we do urge that one be open minded to new and fresh concepts, to meditate upon their value, and if, after thought and contemplation, they seem to your own mind and intuition to contain some germ of truth, then to prove their worth to you by putting them to work in your own lives.
To sum up, now, briefly, the ideas presented for your consideration, we repeat:
1. The lives of many are hampered and hindered by fears.
First, are fears
concerning death, Chief among these are:
a. Fear of ceasing to exist
b. Fear of punishment after death
c. Fear of the unknown
d. Fear of separation from loved ones
e. Fear of pain
Second are the fears concerning life:
a. Fear of want
b. Fear of failure
c. Fear of loneliness
2. All these fears are irrational and unnecessary and may be eliminated from our lives by a working knowledge of certain basic truths. We conceive these truths to be:
a. The Oneness of
b. The universality of the law of nature, cause and effect, "karma";
c. The continuity of consciousness, moving always from less to more in the fulfillment of the law.
In the Christian Bible, the statement is made: "There is no fear in love. Perfect love casteth out fear because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
Fear and perfection are thus said to be inimical; we cannot have both. Each man makes his own choice. We can do for ourselves from the inside what the psychiatrists are trying to do from the outside!
Scientists tell us that in the center of every hurricane there is a small area of perfect calm called "the eye." It is possible for an aviator to fly within this center in perfect safety, unafraid, unharmed by the raging storm by which he is surrounded. In like manner there is, in the center of Being deep within each of us, an area of perfect calm, perfect safety, where each may pilot the craft of his life unafraid and unharmed by the turmoil and confusion, the fears and anxieties of the outer world. To help each of us to find his own "inner eye," his own center of calm, and so be enabled to ride out the storm in safety, THEOSOPHY Exits.
first printing in 1958 with a 2nd printing in 1965 by the Theosophical Society of America )
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