Drawing the Larger Circle
DRAWING THE LARGER CIRCLE
“Great Sifter” is the name of the “Heart Doctrine”, O Disciple. The wheel of the Good Law moves swiftly on. It grinds by night and day. The worthless husks it drives from out the golden grain, the refuse from the flour. The hand of Karma guides the wheel; the revolutions mark the beatings of the karmic heart.
The Voice of the Silence
The 1975 cycle will continue to precipitate momentous choices for individuals and societies. What are the vital elements in this decisive choosing, and what will be the chief consequences? There is in the life of every human being a series of minor choices which add up to a crucial choice, but often it is made with incomplete knowledge of its critical nature. To grow and to age is to recognize with increasing clarity that all events in the past have had their irreversible consequences. Therefore, within any shallow philosophy centred essentially on the physical body and premised upon a single incarnation, a personal sense of futility and fatalism looms large as one comes closer to the moment of death. As with individuals, so with civilizations. Civilizations are apt to conduct the deepest reflection upon their storied past in times of depression, either out of self-indulgent nostalgia or sheer bewilderment at their bygone glory. This has shadowed every great civilization in its hour of decline, and today we are witnessing this in Western Europe and in the nostalgic mood which is intermittent in the United States. Civilizations seek to cling to something of the past, and perceptive chroniclers like Toynbee in England or Jaspers in Switzerland sense that something went wrong as early as before 1914, that the seeds of today’s malaise lay far back in the past. When we look back to that past we surmise that a lot could have been avoided, that there were viable alternatives and missed opportunities. This is the sad state of societies as well as individuals who, because of narrowness of perspective and myopia in relation to the future, impose upon their lives a delusive dependence upon their own edited versions of a truncated past. But whenever human beings are willing to rethink their basic assumptions about themselves, about their shrouded past and about their cloudy future, then they do not need to edit. They do not have to limit unduly the horizon of their gaze.
This is difficult to understand initially. One might think in terms of the extreme example of a person with Promethean foresight who can discern in the cycles of this century long-term factors that go back a thousand years into the past and will go forward a thousand years into the future. In the Victorian Age, T.H. Huxley observed that in the myriad worlds around us there is no reason why there cannot be beings with an intelligence as far beyond our present level as ours is beyond that of the black beetle, and with a control over nature as far beyond our own as ours is beyond that of the snail. He also suggested that even ordinary human beings can look back and forward over a millennium and make broad projections. It is, in principle, possible for there to be beings in the universe who can see all pasts and all futures. The power of choice is partly a function of the scope of perspective. With wider perspectives our choices become more intelligent, but as they become more informed, we readily recognize that there are many factors that are constant. One cannot wish away causes generated over a long cycle. The more clearly a person sees what he cannot alter right now in this incarnation, the more effectively he can use his energies to alter what he can. All this requires a measure of balance, but most human beings are unable to choose wisely by clearly facing the alternatives before them. All too often they vainly hope that by proceeding in one direction, everything else will automatically come to them. Energy cannot move in all directions at once, and though there are many planes of matter, it is always the case that everything adds up in a mathematical universe. One’s capacity to choose is a function of one’s knowledge, not merely of particular causal chains but also of what is at the very core of the phenomenal process of becoming: breathing in and breathing out. Ideally, if one could comprehend the meaning of a single day, one would by analogy be able to understand what is enacted over a lifetime.
It has been taught that for the truly wise, each day is like a new incarnation. In small space they see the subtle motions of unbounded space. In a single moment they can grasp quintessentially the infinite possibilities that are spread out in eternal duration. They can retain in consciousness the freedom that belongs to those who are not rushing to manifest, while displaying a shrewd awareness of what it is possible to manifest with a due respect for the feelings of others, for collective strengths and weaknesses, for the limits and possibilities of the current cycle. Theosophical teaching offers the vast perspective of eighteen million years of human history and also of the sixth sub-race which will emerge far in the future but which must clearly have some relationship to the fifth sub-race – now visibly on the decline – that flowered forth in Europe and partly in America. At this point of time there is, by analogy and correspondence, a critical moment of choice bearing upon the alternatives that confront our intelligence. The ratiocinative mind has become adept, because of modern upbringing and so-called education, because of so much dichotomous thinking since Aristotle, at rationalizing its wants, desires and limitations. Now we find at a global level the logical limit of this rationalizing mind, which insists there is not enough room or food on earth for all human beings on our globe. This no-exit barrier in thinking arises because of assumptions that were too limited from the start. It hinges upon a view of the universe which is incompatible with the vast resources of the creative imagination, with the inventiveness displayed in the last three centuries in building up the structures of applied science and sophisticated civilization. Even this is merely a recent example of the immense resourcefulness of the human race over many millennia. The type of thinking which is inductive, inferential and dichotomous, functioning within the perspective of a closed universe or of a one-life system, has become sterile and has no real answers to the awesome problems of our time.
Today, we face a decisive moment of choice. Human beings cannot by mere repudiation of an obsolete mode of thinking efface it entirely from their minds. Many people are muddled and fearful victims of the collective psychosis, and seem to be constantly in need of psychological reinforcement. The more they look back, like Lot’s wife, the more they are in danger of being immobilized. The threshold of awakening is touched when mature souls search for spiritual wisdom and sense the reality of Mahatmas and their boundless compassion for the whole of humanity. When a person is profoundly affected by a preliminary vision of the quest for enlightenment, it is impossible to go back – the moment of choice has come. Initiates alone know what is the critical threshold for any individual or civilization. In recent years many souls have been confronted with a collective bewilderment that is a prelude to fateful choices. For some it is already too late. Others, unknown to themselves, when they least expect it, will find their way into the civilization of the future. All such choices involve complex chains of causation that are shrouded in the arcane mathematics of Karma. All acts have their exact consequences and all thinking generates appropriate results. The degree of intensity is a function of the level of awareness, motivation and concentration. To think on universal lines is to initiate stronger currents than those generated from a sectarian or separative standpoint.
H.P. Blavatsky said:
The co-disciples must be tuned by the guru as the strings of a lute (vina) each different from the others, yet each emitting sounds in harmony with all, Collectively they must form a keyboard answering in all its parts to thy lightest touch (the touch of the Master). Thus their minds shall open for the harmonies of Wisdom, to vibrate as knowledge through each and all, resulting in effects pleasing to the presiding gods (tutelary or patron-angels) and useful to the Lanoo. So shall Wisdom be impressed for ever on their hearts and the harmony of the law shall never be broken. . . . The mind must remain blunt to all but the universal truths in nature, lest the “Doctrine of the Heart” should become only the “Doctrine of the Eye”.
The true chela is one who has no taste for the small talk of the world, not owing to disinterest in individuals but because of caring so deeply for all souls. Deaf to deceptive formulations of the complexities of human existence, the chela can hold his strength within, instead of being ceaselessly concerned to reform everyone else. The prime concern is to secure a firm anchor within the divine sphere of one’s being, to stay aloof from turbulent currents, so as to remain continually attuned to the sacred music of the flute of Krishna, to the filia vocis within, the promptings of the higher Self, the dictates of one’s Ishtaguru. There are varying levels of intensity to diverse modes of thinking. If the disciple is to achieve the quantum jump to a totally new and initially painful way of thinking, which is abstract and universal but wholly free, this requires continuity of concentration to be established as a stream of ideation and untrammelled awareness. Then it will be possible to initiate far more potent consequences in a short span of time than could be generated through muddled kamamanasic thinking over a long period of time. This change of polarity and scope of ideation is connected with the intensity and continuity of the energy level of radiant matter. At higher levels there is an increasing fusion of thought, feeling and volition. The deeper one draws from the central source of noumenal energies in the universe, the greater the potency of thought, feeling and will – provided one protects this current by the power of silence and true reticence. At one level this is sheer good taste; at another level it demands absolute fidelity to the highest and most sacred. If one can master this mode, one may work as nature works, in silence and secrecy, from the depths of the soil wherein germinates the seed within the seed, slowly unfolding the humble acorn and the mighty oak.
Spiritual life involves taking a risk far greater than any other. One is risking the collapse of one’s personal identity, not merely worldly conceptions of success and failure, but also the rooted identification with name and form and physical existence, with likes and dislikes, delusions and fears. To take that risk and plunge into the void requires real courage. This cannot come without a preliminary purificatory process of asking why one is afraid. One has to look at one’s attachments and see them without illusion as far as possible. One has to grasp why yesterday’s attachments, which seemed to be all-absorbing, are utterly meaningless today. An unfortunate soul gets trapped in the cycle of involvement for a lifetime, experiencing one disillusionment after another. A wiser soul soon sees to the core of the delusive process of externalizing the self. Herein lies the great enigma of the noetic variation among human beings, in terms not only of environment and heredity, but even more in the appreciation of the karma brought into this life, the karma shared with others and the karma engendered by oneself. To become capable of moral and spiritual courage, to see everything from the standpoint of the Ishwara within, means in practice that one is willing to work patiently, like a private in the army, without any access to the well-guarded plans of the Chief of Staff. What matters is doing the best one can and knows how. To master this mental posture is to come closer to the sacred orbit of the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas. They can see every stumbling mountain climber, every little lamp, from the terrace of enlightenment. They instantaneously see what they call “the Tathagata light”, the spirit of true devotion, abstention from fault-finding, and altruism in thought, word and deed.
A person so preoccupied with learning that he entertains no expectations for self, may suddenly receive the privilege of sharing glimpses of a universal vision, such as that which Krishna conferred upon Arjuna. Soul-wisdom cannot be construed in terms of any known symbols or visible tokens. True disciples are fortunate to live in an epoch when so many people have reached the terminus of an entire way of thinking, the salvationist mentality of looking for instant results and vicarious atonement. Over two thousand years this spiritual materialism sullied the pure teaching of Jesus Christ. In the last decade a lot has happened fast. Those who frantically sought quick results have been rapidly disillusioned. The great sifting of souls has enormously facilitated the emergence of the truly courageous, the self-selected pioneers who seek the good of the whole, and are willing to train as “fortune’s favoured soldiers” in the ancient Army of the Voice. The key note of universal brotherhood was already struck in the nineteenth century in the message of the Maha Chohan, who calmly declared: “He who does not feel competent to grasp the noble idea sufficiently to work for it, need not undertake a task too heavy for him.” There need be no chastising of those who are not ready for the larger task, and it is too late in history to coax the weak to simulate the language of the strong. One of the paradoxes of our time is that those who cannot maintain continuity of consciousness even for a week preach spiritual tenets for their own psychological survival. But out of such will not come the forerunners of the coming civilization, the alchemical agents for the radical transformation of modes of thought and action. These rare souls define themselves in an unmistakable manner, by unconditionality of commitment, magnanimity of mind and reverence for all the spiritual teachers of humanity.
The idea of unconditionality lies at the core of the perennial philosophy of the great sages at all times, in all conditions and in all cultures. This is the identifying hallmark of the authenticity of every true intimation of Theosophia. The Secret Doctrine points to the unthinkable and the unspeakable in the accents of the Mandukya Upanishad. H.P. Blavatsky prefaced The Secret Doctrine by the Rig Vedic Hymn to Creation, wherein the highest beings suggest that they perchance know not the ultimate purpose of creation, showing the authentic agnosticism of the enlightened. When men have attained to gnosis, their profound agnosticism diffuses a peerless fragrance that touches the hearts of the humblest people. If one tries to move from any concept of the immense to a sense of infinity, it may seem as if one is coming closer to the unconditional, but no concept of immensity or infinity can capture the boundlessness of invisible space, eternal duration, perpetual motion or unmodified consciousness. One cannot ever bring to the level of expression, symbolization or conceptualization that which one can apprehend and experience at a deeper level, wherein the whole of one’s being is alive and awake. When the deep calls to the deep, the ineffable awareness of the boundless cannot be intimated except through silence and stillness. This is profoundly fundamental to the entire universe and all consciousness, to God, law and man. It entails unending reverence for the unknown in every being, not just as a mode but as the central truth in all relationships. It alone gives one true freedom and complete openness in relation to the inexhaustible possibilities of the future. Those who vainly seek to limit the future to their impressionistic scenarios and linear projections will be supplanted by the tidal wave of feeling that arises from the abundant fullness of human hearts, the untrammelled ideation of human minds and the creative wills of immortal souls.
As the structures of the past atrophy and crumble, only that could replace them which would existentially reflect the inner truth of soul-evolution, the insights of monads that pierce the veil of forms. The inversions of the insecure, allowing moral pygmies to speculate upon spiritual giants, will have no sway in the civilization of the future. There will be a pervasive recognition of the logical impossibility for the lesser to judge the greater, and the sure sign of littleness is the tendency to convert beliefs into verdicts. The Aquarian Age will foster that openness in relation to the larger circle which will be a natural extension of the open texture of our primary relationships – with parents, teachers, siblings, so-called enemies and friends. There will be a more widespread acknowledgement that as veil upon veil may lift, there must remain veil upon veil behind. When the human race as a whole can afford to live with such mature awareness, it will be hospitable to the sort of spiritual and moral toughness that can cope fully with the accelerated pace of karmic precipitation. Many will readily grasp the elementary axiom of the mathematics of the soul that in order to comprehend an Adept or Mahatma, one must first devote a lifetime to true discipleship. This is an immensely liberating prospect, when compared with the stifling spiritual limitations of the last century. H.P. Blavatsky had to undergo the pain of risking profanation in testifying to the existence of Mahatmas in the heyday of Victorian prejudice and conceit. The spoilt victims of centuries of sectarian stupidity, more skilled in image-crippling than in true devotion, were almost constitutionally incapable of understanding Mahatmas. Speaking of them was then a great sacrifice. This is fortunately no longer necessary, because those who need to participate in the clamour of pseudo-claims and shallow judgements are now confronted with an abundant supply of readily available gurus. This offers a considerable protection to the real work in the world of the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas. During the 1975 cycle there is no more need to make any concessions to the weak in the West that were unknown in the East. This augurs well for the future of humanity.
All over the globe, the paramount problem is one of renewing and maintaining the minimal standards of being truly human. Only those souls who already have a profound grasp of sunyata and karuna, the voidness of all and the fullness of compassion, will undergo the lifelong training of discipleship and awaken the Bodhichitta, the seed of the Bodhisattva. There is thus the immense gain that the mixing of incompatible vibrations may be mitigated in this century. At the widest level, universal good – Agathon – is the keynote of the epoch. The religion of humanity is the central emphasis of the 1975 cycle. Those who are self-elected by their own meditations, by their generous natures, and by their cooperative acts, who are willing to become true disciples of the Mahatmas, will readily undergo the rigorous discipline and share the rich resources of the divine dialectic, Buddhi Yoga, mirroring the divine wisdom of Brahma Vach or Theosophia. They will ceaselessly attempt to draw the larger circle. There is no reason why breadth should be at the expense of depth. A new balancing between a much broader diffusion of the fundamental truths of “the golden links” and a much deeper penetration into the visible is now possible and will come to a full flowering by the end of the century. In the climactic rush of the closing years, there will be an unprecedented outpouring of creative energies and spiritual resources, as well as the closing of many doors, plunging into obscurity many protracted illusions of the past. The religion of humanity is the religion of the future, fusing the philosophy of perfectibility, the science of spirituality and the ethics of growth in global responsibility.
by Raghavan Iyer
Published by permission of theosophytrust.org.