In Light on the Path, a little devotional book familiar to most Theosophists, there is this passage: "It is not well; thou hast reaped, now thou must sow."
In years gone by I puzzled over that injunction, wondering at its sequence of thought, feeling that it should have been reversed. Surely one could quite logically expect to sow first and, having sowed, to reap the effects — good or ill! Time, which does so many things to all of us, has brought a deeper understanding of the significance of this passage. We are constantly sowing or reaping, and often we seem to be doing both at the same time, for the two processes are inextricably interwoven; but there comes a moment when we have to step out from the past, as it were, and sow afresh for the future — a future that shall be our responsibility consciously.
As children we learn to do many things because we have been told that it is right to do them. If they are truly the right things to be done, we shall one day have to do them all over again, and this time do them because we recognize their excellence, and for that reason choose of our own volition to do them. It is not so simple as it sounds, however, and a study of our actions and reactions will bring this fact home to us. Merely having done something willingly, because automatically, is no sign that we shall do it in the same agreeable manner when we have to do it from choice.
Having stubbed my toe on this figurative rock more than once, the thought has come to me that here lies one explanation at least of the statement "thou hast reaped, now thou must sow." For by living in harmony with our fellows we reap certain benefits; but if we live thus without much thought on our part, and largely because we have been brought up to live that way, these benefits come to us second-hand, as it were, and are garnered from the experience of others. It is not well that we should benefit in this manner indefinitely. The time comes when we must start out on our own — prepare the soil, sow the seeds, and reap whatever comes up.
Perhaps this requirement that we shall eventually sow our own seed is one of the reasons why we as humans seem to take such aeons to arrive anywhere evolutionally. Of course the law of cycles has to be taken into account — but here again, because we must learn to sow our own seed, we have an added reason for apparently retracing our steps so many times. There is a similar thought hidden in the tales of the childhood of the race. This was a golden age when the gods walked with men and instructed them. Men in general followed the directions of their teachers, and a childlike happiness prevailed. Then the gods said, "It is not well; you have reaped, now you must sow" — and humanity was given an opportunity to work out its own salvation.
Down through the ages we have had chance after chance to show what kind of seed we could sow all on our own, and time after time the gods have sent one of their number to show us anew the principles of good husbandry. We have learned many things — slowly, even painfully — but still we do not fully grasp the fact that we have to choose to do things the right way. We like so much to make laws, to legislate ourselves into doing what is right. Laws are necessary, and the better they are, the happier are the individuals who are governed by them; but they are only one factor in this spiritual husbandry, and not even the most important. They serve to tell us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, but the important thing is doing it, and doing it because we want to.
Today we are faced again with the necessity of choosing for ourselves. The nations are the chief actors in this drama. But these nations may be likened to the actors of ancient times who wore such accessories of costume as would increase their stature, and give the impression that they were super-men or gods. The nations are only aggregates of individuals, and very much limited by the manner in which those individuals have learned to think and feel and make decisions — by their ability to choose, and choose wisely.
So we come back to our own responsibility, and we find that we are more important to the "tilling of the soil" than we perhaps thought we were. We have reaped, now we must sow. What shall the harvest be?
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