How to Begin
A fundamental concept of the Esoteric Philosophy is that there is no absolute beginning or ending to the process of evolution. However, there are beginnings and endings to a cycle of activity that reaches a certain height of relative perfection. The entire universe is embodied soul ever aspiring to higher degrees of power and knowledge. In its broadest sense, The Theosophical Movement is the eternal struggle of soul to free itself from darkness and ignorance and step into the light of wisdom and truth.
If a thinker realizes the sympathy between individual aspiration and the great aim and purpose of The Theosophical Movement, it is not likely that this life is the first on the path of the higher life. It is only the beginning of the aspiration in this life, an effort pursued many times before in previous lives, awakened and stirred into activity by the word or deed of another. Even before self-consciously taking up Theosophical work, study and devotion in this life, there were many “beginnings” in this life that prepared the way. They began with decisive, inspiring and practical decisions that opened up for the soul “The Gates of Gold.”
Even after first contact with Theosophy in this life there will be many other “beginnings” in the years to come. These “firsts” include the first time one decides to seriously study, to help promulgate the ideas, to make the ideas the guiding principle of one’s life, to take individual responsibility to become a center of Theosophical influence in the community, and many others. These smaller cycles within the larger cycle of Theosophical Life fall under the influence of the three great qualities of nature.
In the first stage of the beginning of a large or small cycle of effort there is a natural awareness of darkness and ignorance as to how to proceed. There may be a natural reserve or even hesitancy to act. All this is under the influence of Tamas. While it is not useful to identify with this quality and get stuck in inertia or indifference, it is a good time to listen and learn, to reflect on the new effort in the light of one’s previous experience and to formulate questions previously learned. For example, if one should read or hear something in Theosophy that is difficult to understand or apply it is useful for oneself and others to express the difficulty or ask a question about it. On the other hand, one may be inspired or illuminated by a particular passage. Under those circumstances, one can proceed by expressing why and how that passage is so meaningful. This will also be helpful to others.
During this stage, it is useful to remember that we have all been in the darkness and light before and that the key to path that lies ahead can be found in what we have
W.Q. Judge explains the other ways in which the qualities of nature influence the work:
“It is true, we must aspire ardently, and blessed is the one who, after the first aspiration, is wise enough to see the Truth.
Three qualities forever encompass us: Satwa (truth and stability), Rajas (action, war, aspiration, ambition), Tamas (indifference, ignorance, darkness).
None may be ignored. So the path lies from Tamas, up through war, ambition, and aspiration, to Satwa, or truth and stability. We are now in Rajasika regions, sometimes lifting our fingers up to the hem of the garment of Satwa, ever aspiring, ever trying to purify our thoughts and free ourselves from the attachment to actions and objects. So, of course, the ardent student naturally aspires for power. This is wise. But he must soon begin to see what he must do for real progress. For continual aspiration for power, merely, is sure to sow for us the giant weed of self…” - Letters That Have Helped Me
The real progress that leads to the truth and stability of Satwa is to strive for power and knowledge so as to help the collective evolution of soul, not only in other human beings but also in the intelligent beings that make up all the kingdoms of nature. They are a part of us and we are part of them. Their welfare and progress is intimately connected with our own. In order to reach this stage of harmony with all that lives, one must use the higher indifference of Tamas along with all the power and aspiration of Rajas to restrain the influence of selfishness within the personality, while using the personality as a vehicle to act for and as the Self of All.
© 2010 United Lodge of Theosophists of Philadelphia