By Betty Bland
Originally printed in the NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2005 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Bland, Betty. "As a Child." Quest 93.6 (NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2005):204-205.
With the recent arrival of our first grandchild, I am reminded not only of the beauty and significance of life but also of our dependence on each other for survival and well-being. One wonders how any mother and child ever survive without professional and family support. There have been and still are those situations in which this happens; the conditions are harsh and survival tenuous. Yet within community it can become a beautiful and nurturing experience.
Aspirants who first decide to set foot on the spiritual path are similar to a newborn. Like an infant they awaken to a strange world where they require much attention, for which they have no skills, and yet in which they have infinite potential.
One of the first requirements for the neophyte is some type of nurturing attention. There are very few in this world who, like the Buddha, can sit unaided under the Bodhi tree and find enlightenment or, like Jesus, can emerge unscathed from forty days of temptations in the wilderness, fully conscious that he and the creator/sustainer are one. Even in those instances various teachers who had contributed to their preparations.
Because these two supreme examples are far beyond the ken of most of us mere mortals, we are more like infants or at best growing children, playing at the edges of understanding life and its purposes. We all require the support of wise teachers through the written and spoken word, the good examples of our fellowsâ€™ achievements, and, most important, caring interaction with a community focused on the spiritual life.
We need to find a community of like-minded people, those who donâ€™t think we are crazy for not following the usual pattern of self-interested materialism. Fellow seekers can share in our search for understanding, provide a sounding board for our nascent ideas, and point us toward expanded horizons for exploration.
The awakened spirit within us is much like an ember in a campfire. If separated too far from the warmth of the blaze, our flame will flicker and lose its heat. Our consciousness responds to the spiritual heat of those around us and can lose its direction when constantly impacted by the materialistic and self-focused influences so rampant in the surrounding darkness.
Often termed the Sangha, a spiritual community does not have to provide physical proximity, although that is extremely useful. Some contact does have to occur, and of course face-to-face contact is always best, but in our mobile society with a limited proportion of spiritual seekers, that kind of contact may be sporadic at best. The Theosophical Society was founded to be a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity. That means it was intended to be a center that could attract the glowing embers of souls to spark their own flames, cultivate the blaze in each other, and draw newcomers toward the heat.
In volume 14 of the , she affirms: "The first and fundamental principle of moral strength and power is association and solidarity of thought and purpose." She recognized that we must come together as a nucleus of humanity in order to survive and develop into our potential. Ours is not a simple task but a complex, difficult project.
As newborns, not only do we need the warmth of support, but we have an interior mountain to climb. We arrive on the scene with limited awareness and capabilities, and through many struggles gradually unfold the abilities to see, to hear, to speak, and to act in accord with higher principles. Persistence and patience with ourselves and in interactions with others as these abilities develop are the bedrock for a strong footing in this climb.
There will be many a faltering step as we develop the skills to live in the new world we are trying to enter. We have to learn to function on every level in an entirely different way from the one we have known. These tasks are described in Light on the Path, one of our treasures of esoteric literature:
Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears. Before the ear can hear, it must have lost its sensitiveness. Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Masters it must have lost the power to wound. Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.
With our realized dependence and connections with others, and a clear commitment to the process of growing our capacities, we share a third similarity with the infant. Unlimited potential awaits us as our future splendor unfolds. We will one day be the wise ones who serve as guardians to humanity. As Madame Blavatsky put it, "For those who win onwards there is reward past all telling—the power to bless and save humanity . . ." (Collected Writings, vol. 13)
As they gaze at their children, parents wonder who these little people are. What will they be? What wonders will unfold as they develop? How will they add to the beauty of the world? Optimism pervades most reactions to these little ones because of the many possibilities abiding in latency. We recognize that there may be many a stumble and difficulty but that those are also a part of the growth process.
The development of our potential should spark determined perseverance in working on ourselves and investing effort in banding together with like-minded inpiduals who can serve as the core of hot coals that both warms and challenges us. We need community as much as any young creature struggling for survival.
If we keep the image of a developing child in mind as we try to grow, and as we interface with our compatriots in this effort, then we will be able to have greater understanding and see things from a larger perspective. Instead of the flawed human beings of the present, we will be able to see the beauty in latency. When we look in the mirror or into the window of our fellowsâ€™ heart, we will perceive the potential of purity and wisdom. We will see wise ones in the making.