25 Jun Soul Growth & Spiritual Evolution | Spirituality Podcasts
Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. I’d like to start today with some special news. Starting this Sunday, June 25th, we will be launching a new podcast exclusively for our patrons at Patreon.com. The show is called “Our Sunday Talks” and it will deal with topics related to spirituality from both Eastern and Western perspectives. While we do touch occasionally on the spiritual on the Inspirational Living podcast, the Our Sunday Talks series will focus on this aspect of life, including discussions on the soul, mystical experiences, enlightenment, love, God, prayer, and much more.
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Now, on to today’s reading, which was edited and adapted from Self-Development and The Way to Power by L.W. Rogers, published in 1916.
It is the natural right of every human being to be happy — to escape all the miseries of life. Happiness is the normal condition, as natural as the landscapes and the seasons. It is unnatural to suffer, and it is only because of our ignorance that we do suffer. Happiness is the product of wisdom. To attain perfect wisdom, to comprehend fully the purpose of life, to realize completely the relationship of human beings to each other, is to put an end to all suffering, to escape every ill and evil that afflicts us. Perfect wisdom is unshadowed joy.
Why do we suffer in life? Because in the scheme of nature we are being forced forward in evolution, and we lack the spiritual illumination that alone can light the way and enable us to move safely among the obstacles that lie before us. Usually we do not even see or suspect the presence of trouble until it suddenly leaps upon us like a concealed tiger:
One day our family circle is complete and happy. A week later death has come and gone and joy is replaced with agony. Today we have a friend. Tomorrow they will be an enemy and we do not know why. A little while ago we had wealth and all material luxuries; then there was a sudden change, and now we have only poverty and misery, and yet we seek in vain for a reason why this should be. There was a time when we had health and strength; but they have both departed and no trace of a reason appears.
Aside from these greater tragedies of life, innumerable things of lesser consequence continually bring to us little miseries and minor heartaches. We most earnestly desire to avoid them, but we never see them until they strike us, until in the darkness of our ignorance we blunder upon them.
The thing we lack is the spiritual illumination that will enable us to look far and wide, finding the hidden causes of human suffering and revealing the method by which they may be avoided; and if we can but reach illumination, the evolutionary journey can be made both comfortably and swiftly.
It is as though we must pass through a long, dark room filled with furniture promiscuously scattered about. In the darkness, our progress will be slow and painful and our bruises many. But if we could press a button that would turn on the electric light, we could then make the same journey quickly and with perfect safety and comfort.
The old method of education was to store the mind with as many facts, or supposed facts, as could be accumulated and to give a certain exterior polish to the personality. The theory was that when a person was born, they were a completed human being and that all that could be done for them was to load them up with information that would be used with more or less skill, according to the native ability they happened to be born with.
The theosophical idea is that the physical person, and all that constitutes their life in the physical world, is but a very partial expression of the self; that in the ego of each, there is practically unlimited power and wisdom; that these may be brought through into expression in the physical world as the physical body and its invisible counterparts; and that in exact proportion that conscious effort is given to such self-development will spiritual illumination be achieved and wisdom attained. Thus the light that leads to happiness is kindled from within and the evolutionary journey that all are making may be robbed of its suffering.
Why does death bring misery? Chiefly because it separates us from those we love. But when we have evolved the faculty of clairvoyance, in our work of self-development, the separation vanishes and our “dead” friends are as much with us as the living. The only other reason why death brings grief or fear is because we do not understand it and comprehend the part it plays in human evolution. But the moment our ignorance gives way to comprehension, such fear vanishes and a serene happiness takes its place.
Why do we have enemies from whose words or acts we suffer? Because in our limited physical consciousness we do not perceive the unity of all life and realize that our wrong thinking and doing must react upon us through other people — a situation from which there is no possible escape except through ceasing to think evil and then patiently awaiting the time when the causes we have already generated are fully exhausted. When spiritual illumination comes, and we no longer stumble in the night of ignorance, the last enemy will disappear and we shall make no more forever.
And so it is with all forms of suffering we experience. They are at once reactions from our ignorant blunderings and instructors that point out the better way. When we have comprehended the lessons they teach, they are no longer necessary and disappear.
Every human being must make, and is making, a long evolutionary journey from spiritual infancy to divine power and perfection, but there are two ways in which it may be done. We may, as the vast majority do, accept the process of unconscious evolution and submit to nature’s whip and spur that continuously urge the thoughtless and indifferent forward until they finally reach the goal. Or, we may choose conscious evolution and work intelligently with nature, thus making progress that is comparatively of enormous rapidity, and at the same time avoid much of what Hamlet called the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
The degree to which mind can control circumstances and dominate matter is far greater than is generally believed. Our impressions about matter are very illusory. No form of matter is permanent. Change goes on everywhere at every instant, by physical laws in the physical body and by spiritual and mental laws in our invisible bodies. We are not the same being, physically, mentally or spiritually, any two days in succession. The very soul itself is subject to this law of change.
What is the law of soul growth? Through adherence to what principle may we reach spiritual illumination? There are certain well-established facts about the laws of growth that we should not overlook when seeking the way forward. Nothing whatever can grow without use, without activity. Inaction causes atrophy.
Physiologists tell us that if the arm be tied to the body so that it cannot be used, it will in time become so enfeebled, that it is of no further service. It will wither away. That is nature’s law of economy. She never gives life where it is useless, where it cannot, or will not, be utilized.
On the other hand, exercise increases power. To increase the size and strength of muscles we must use them. This is just as true of mental and moral faculties as it is of the physical body. The only way to make the brain keen and powerful is to exercise it by original thinking.
One way to gain soul powers is to give free play to the loftiest aspirations of which we are capable, and to do it systematically instead of at random. We grow to be like the things we think about. Now, the reverse of all this must be equally true. To give no thought to higher things, to become completely absorbed in material affairs, is to stifle the soul, to invite spiritual atrophy.
Turning our attention to nature, we shall find in the parasite convincing proof of all this. The parasite, whether plant or animal, is living evidence that to refuse or neglect to use an organ or faculty results in being deprived of it. The dodder, for example, has roots like other plants, but when it fixes sucker discs on the branches of neighboring plants and begins to get its food through them, its roots perish. When it fails to use them, it loses them.
Or take the hermit-crab as an illustration of this great fact in nature, that disuse means loss, and that to shirk responsibility is the road to degeneration. The hermit-crab was once equipped with a hard shell and with as good a means of locomotion as other crabs. But instead of courageously following the hardy life of other crustaceans, it formed the bad habit of taking up its residence in the cast-off shells of mollusks. This made life easy and indolent. But it paid the price of all that shirking.
In time it lost four legs, while the shell over the vital portion of its body degenerated to a thin membrane which leaves it practically helpless when it is out of its captured home. And this is the certain result of all that shirking of responsibility. There may be an apparent temporary gain, but it always means greater loss, either immediate or remote.
So, nature punishes inaction with atrophy. Whatever is not used finally ceases to be. In plain language, apathy, inaction, idleness, uselessness, is the road to degeneration. On the other hand, aspiration and activity mean growth, development, power.
We grow (physically, mentally, and morally) by activity, by exercise of the organs or the faculties we desire to possess. It is only by the constant exercise of these things that we can grow at all. When this great law of nature is understood, we see at once how it is that life is full of trouble; why it is that the whole visible world seems to be designed to keep us constantly at work physically and mentally, to challenge our resourcefulness in improving our physical, social, and political conditions, to continually try our patience and to forever test our courage. It is the way of development. It is the price of progress.
The universe is a training school for evolving intelligence — a vast gymnasium for the development of moral fibre. We become mentally clever by playing at the game of life. We match our courage against its adversities and acquire fearlessness. We try our optimism against its disappointments and learn cheerfulness. We pit our patience against its failures and gain persistence. We are torn from the pinnacle of ambition by opponents and learn toleration of others. We fall from the heights of vanity and pride, and learn to be modest and humble. We encounter pain and sorrow and learn sympathy with suffering. It is only by such experiences that we can grow to rounded measure. It is only in an environment thus adapted to our spiritual development that we can evolve the latent powers within us.
Such is the universe in which we find ourselves, and from it there is no escape. No person can avoid life — not even the foolish one who, when the difficulties before them appear for the moment overwhelming, tries to escape them by suicide. We cannot die. We can only choose how we will live. We may either helplessly drift through the world suffering from all the ills and evils that make so many unhappy, or we may choose the method of conscious evolution that alone makes life truly successful. We may be either the suffering slaves of nature or the happy masters of her laws.
Now, all powers possessed by any human being, no matter how exalted their position in evolution, or how sublime their spiritual power, are latent in all human beings and can, in time, be developed and brought into action. Of course there is no magic rule by which the ignoramus can instantly become wise or by which a brutal person can be at once transformed into a saint. But this transformation from the darkness of ignorance to spiritual illumination, from helplessness “in the fell clutch of circumstance” to power over nature, must be brought about by your own efforts, for it is a process of evolution — of forcing the latent to become the active.
Therefore you must resolve to take yourself in hand for definite and systematic self-development. Nobody else can do the work for you. Certain moral qualities must be gained before there can be spiritual illumination and genuine wisdom, and such qualities (or virtues) have to be evolved by the laws under which all growth occurs. It is just as impossible to acquire a moral quality by reading about its desirability as to evolve muscular strength by watching the performance of a group of athletes.
To gain muscular strength you must take part in the physical activities that produce it. You must live the athletic life. To win spiritual strength and supremacy you must live the spiritual life. There is no other way. You must first learn what mental and moral qualities are essential, and how to gain them, and then set earnestly about the work of acquiring them.
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