The Wine of Life by Katherine Tingley

Copyright © 1996 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.

Chapter 4

THE IDEAL HOME AND EDUCATION

For mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects. It needs the gentle breezes of Soul-Wisdom to brush away the dust of our illusions. Seek, O Beginner, to blend thy Mind and Soul." — H. P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence

I — Religion, the Greatest Reality

If we have not the courage to travel for our own sakes along the path that leads to perfection, let us at least make the way straight for our children. The soul craves for an education that develops the balance of the faculties: in which, while the material life and all that belongs to it are considered, the spiritual life is given its true place so that it may nourish in the mind a discrimination or intuition almost unknown today. Intuition is one of the many divine powers latent in us. It discerns, anticipates, and wards off evil, and is the eye, the ear, and the voice of the Christos in man. Only let it be aroused and the child will know its own divinity and live in the great surging wave of inspiration that life should be. All the obstacles that come of heredity or environment will be overcome in time through self-effort.

Children are born to be met with something better than the welcome they receive in even the best of homes. They come demanding a response to the yearnings of the spiritual part of their being which nothing material can satisfy; and parents cannot so express their love as to meet these deepest needs unless they themselves know what real life, spiritual life, means and can face its mysteries with reverent understanding. To provide a real education for one's children, one must make religion all in all — the divine inspiration of a true life.

Man is religious — is born religious, became religious as soon as he became man — and of all the realities, religion is the greatest. But we have to realize that in many religious aspects there are elements that obscure its trueness, and that to hold the minds of men within the limitations of a rigid doctrinal formalism is to crucify the soul, to insult the higher nature, and to contaminate and stultify the real or spiritual life.

Belief may be mere opinion, or founded on reason, or the result of inward illumination — a direct perception or knowledge. The world today is mainly governed by opinion. The ideas and teachings, chiefly ecclesiastical, of past ages have taken control of the human mind, and the shelves and departments of that chamber of thought have been so filled up with them that no room is left for the knowledge that belongs to the soul.

Obscurations crept in when the early Fathers, in trying to lift the people out of their materialism, adulterated the divine doctrines that had come down to them with the brain-mind ideas of a few intellectuals. A system resulted which was based on fear, whereas the ancient and true system had been based on trust. The masses were ignorant, and the half-instructed usurped authority and built for the future on foundations of falsehood. They gained control of literature and held it for ages, obstructing truth and creating absurd superstitions that have become ingrained in the fiber of our belief. Their first step was to teach humanity to substitute blind faith for its divine birthright of knowledge. The most important doctrine of all, that of the divinity of man, was left out, and in its place the misinterpretation was substituted that the divine spirit pertained to and was especially to be found in one man alone. If it were not in all of us we should not be alive.

The most cruel persecutions have been brought about always by religious intolerance which, truly, has its hands active behind the scenes today and works out its vicious life in ways we do not dream of. Creeds and dogmas, the easy refuge of the sluggish mind, put fetters on noble thought and obscure the principles of truth.

We come into the world trailing clouds of glory and with the light of our divinity shining on us, and then because of the education and environment that await us here, we are blinded though yet yearning towards the sunlight. The views we acquire are so limited, the goals set before us so petty and ignoble, that we begin to grow old while we still should be young, and to die before we reach full manhood. We live but a few years before our whole thought is of death. The phantom fear is with us always, and yet youth in its richness and fullness might be found in life at seventy!

From the streets of our cities — from the most degraded quarters, the poverty-stricken districts, penitentiaries, insane asylums, hospitals — from home and civic life alike, we hear a cry going up always: that things are imperfect, that happiness is not to be found. Often those who think the most, think most away from truth because they depend on the intellectual — on certain books and "isms" and doctrines, what this one has written and that one has said. But the real genius and power of humanity lie not in these outward aspects of life.

We inhabit but the smallest part of ourselves and leave unoccupied those very regions in our being where the secret of right living might be found. Half-interest, half-heartedness, inertia, have shut away the life-giving side of us: we have left it deserted so long that now we have forgotten it exists. For lack of its healing influences humanity is sick and a festering vicious spirit has been nourished in the intellectual untouched by spirituality.

Science stands timidly outside the doors of truth and, thinking only of externals, ignores the invisible forces in man and the grand faculties of his spiritual nature. Yet we have hardly progressed even to science: few have gone so far as to base their lives and ideas on reason — and very few can go beyond that to illumination. But faith not born of illumination is not knowledge and arrives at no truth, and it is not blind faith nor even intellect that must govern things, but that inner force that makes us divine and gives us marvelous power to direct our own lives and human destiny. We must hold a funeral service over our creeds.

Theosophy enlarges the perspective and brings man to his own through conviction that within the heart and mind are all the factors necessary for the world's redemption. As we are mysteries, so we can be revelations to ourselves. Were a man to seek truth so earnestly as to find his way into his own soul, and discover its mysterious faculties and what armies wait there at his command, he would hold in hand the key to all situations and understand every need of humanity. Every secret of human nature would be clear to him.

Some demand that the soul shall be brought down and placed in the palms of their hands or they will not believe in it. As reasonably demand that the stars should be plucked out of heaven and analyzed! He who would grow and live in the golden light of truth must not ask proof of things spiritual, but knock at the door of his innermost nature, introspect, and find in his own heart the revelation.

For we do not live by philosophic or theological speculations about life, but by the knowledge of life we ourselves have acquired. Truth is not intricate and remote, a thing to be led to by much discussion. It is the reality behind all these outward aspects of life, the eternal purpose ever pressing towards manifestation, that which keeps the stars in place and mankind from self-destruction. We have always been taught after a fashion that we are immortal, but was there anything in the teaching that brought immortality into our conscious selves or gave us not faith but knowledge to live by? Intellect is not enough, nor are even morality and good deeds alone. To make any true advance we must lean upon the wisdom of the heart, which is divine, and have some trust at least in our spiritual nature, some assurance that in our inmost being we are incorruptible — that we have godlike qualities that can be brought into action and can make our minds the vehicles of an immortal self.

How can any earnest thinker deny the divinity of man? In everyone's experience there is enough to convince him that out beyond all we see and hear is a living pulsating power urging men on to higher purposes, nobler service, driving us in quest of a knowledge that would justify life and make its meanings clear. This is the ray of the infinite in us. It proceeds from the supreme central source of all; it broods over humanity and enfolds it. It is the teacher, the knower, the helper, the consolation.

Illumination cannot come until a man knows this — which does not mean, until he accepts its existence as a dogma or holds it as an opinion, but until he is aware of it as a divine presence within him. We must pass from opinion to reason, and from reason to this illumination, until we attain to seeing life as it is. The real man is a spiritual being, and the thinking mind must be guided by that which when manifested makes one whole. The lowest human being on earth today has still within him a ray of the eternal love, of God that is all-beauty.

II — The Soul Belongs to the Immortals

Regard with unprejudiced eyes the opinions and traditions our forefathers held to be fundamental truths and one must see what limitations they impose. A married couple may be loving and devoted, blessed with every helpful quality an ordinary education can give and fitted in all exterior senses for the care of children, and yet, believing that man is born in sin and must depend on outside help for salvation, how can they know the meaning of the birth of their child and all that precedes it? How can they move out in thought to the higher states of consciousness and feel the brooding presence of the indwelling spirit and the mysterious approach of the soul that seeks entry into this world?

And when their child is born and nature has produced the tiny animate body they so tenderly care for, how many mothers realize that linked with that body, and to gain therein its necessary experience and advancement, is a soul (during infancy as it were asleep), the treasure of the gods come into their lives to learn from and to teach them, to benefit them and to be benefited? "The soul belongs to the immortals; the body has come to me that I may make it a temple of the living god" — how many mothers tell themselves that?

If we do not know what we need ourselves, how shall we understand the needs of our children? We look upon those dear little mysteries as something wholly our own, take possession of them from the very first and try to fashion their lives upon notions of our own, and forget that they are souls with their own rights and individuality. In what a hurry we are to push them on, to get our doctrines and ideas and devotions and feelings drummed into them! We love them and desire their advancement and indeed would suffer or die for them, but shut them in within the little scope of our personal concepts and ingrain our idiosyncrasies into their lives. We would make them a part of ourselves and hide from them that they are a part of the great life of the universe. In our very efforts to teach them, we hold away from them the grander lessons of universal nature.

You may have a home established on fair lines of understanding — with love, means, mutual consideration, a religious tendency, and a strong determination to build the homelife on the right basis — and yet there is a nightmare in that house, a specter that haunts the minds of the parents even before their first child is born, and puts its shadow over every thought of love and hope for their children that enters their minds. It is fear: fear of separation, fear of death.

In their solicitude they surround their children, as far as they can, with everything that physical life can give. They nestle them to their hearts and make great plans for their future — which, however, they foresee only in terms of a life of from seventy to a hundred years. They do not know what their children's destiny will be, nor if they are to see them again, nor when, nor how. They do not look towards the tomorrows of the evolution of the soul. The dogmas of the last two thousand years obscure from them knowledge which should be theirs, and though their love is born in eternity, it is marred and narrowed in its expression by the notions of the day. The economy of nature cannot be understood by those who hold that we live but once. They cannot see the breadth and scope of our human evolution.

Truth is always seeking expression: not in creeds and verbal formulae, but as higher states of consciousness in men. It is a profound sense of the solemn mystery of life that the mother-to-be should have, not dogmas based on tradition and faith and with no element of knowledge in them. The mystery of life must be understood or the unborn child is swayed by the influence, not of illumination, not of reality, but of mere opinion, and suffers a kind of starvation spiritually. It has come back, a stranger, to those from whom it has been parted so long, demanding a spiritual welcome and to be made to feel in the very first pulsations of its heart before birth the superb influence of truth — of spiritual truth manifesting as higher states of consciousness in the parents and fashioning their thoughts and actions in such a way as to build up for a child a life-vehicle fit for a soul. They have nothing to give it but the atmosphere of the dead opinions of this and past ages: no living truth, no awareness of the divine, ever-present and shining through human hearts and minds, only worn-out ideas that come down from unillumined centuries, the theories and dogmas of an ignorant past.

How many mothers know anything of those sublime mysteries or prepare themselves for motherhood in any real, that is, spiritual sense? Or with all their love and self-sacrifice can say that their every thought and action since they took up the sacred obligation of marriage has been based on the kind of knowledge that, having naught to do with opinion and utterly surpassing reason, inheres in the heart and in the soul, and pushing its way out into the life changes the whole thought-atmosphere into something divine? Their education has thrown them the other way: for generations we have been feeding, not on knowledge, but on blind faith.

And so the children are not rightly welcomed. Their lives are prepared for and started in an atmosphere of uncertainty, unrest, and before and after birth they starve for that spiritual light and peace which of right should belong to every human being — for it is the consciousness of the divine nature within each of us.

III — The Christos-spirit in the Home

To think of a man is to think of a soul: an inhabitant of eternity moving forever along the path of evolution, seeking wisdom and driven to seek it by a sense of his own incompleteness and a hunger for the fullness of his being. Only egoists are self-satisfied. The normal man feels within himself that longing for completeness which is the effort of divine truth to manifest through him. He is impatient with his own failure to understand the mysteries of life.

So we are often impelled hither and thither, and our course is zigzag from this thought system to that. Our policies in life are shaped by the psychological influences of the age we live in: by current opinions and the small revelations of science, or by some book that may be in great temporary repute. There is no growth for those who thus depend upon such ephemeral guides. Hundreds of mothers, while they are experimenting and experimenting and reading this or that on child-culture, or attending such-and-such lectures, are all the while depriving their children of something divine that once acquired can never be lost, that can only be acquired during the prenatal period and earliest childhood and only through the mother's knowledge of the laws, mysteries, and responsibilities of life.

If parents rightly understood these vital needs of their children, they would regard the subject of self-purification in a new way and make of their homes altars to purity. What is needed is a larger view of the meaning of happiness: this is the line of thought following which they might discover their true selves and begin the upbuilding of a better race. The world stands in need of mothers and fathers with clear, quiet minds, to whom the home is the sacred center of human life, where no disharmony is allowed to enter, where time is held too precious for many things that seem all-important to most of us, where duty to the self, to the children, to the race, is firmly understood and unflinchingly followed.

Let the man who goes to his club stay at home a little more! Let the woman who hankers after a wider experience face herself and make in the home, that is the shrine of her inner being and the inner life of her husband and children, that splendid change her heart yearns for! Her power, she should remember, is incalculable. True womanhood is always queenly and carries with it a force to shape all things for righteousness; and, on the other hand, many and many a man who has lost his faith in himself and in humanity must ascribe his loss to a woman. For a woman's power is all too often misapplied.

I believe in the equality of the sexes, but I believe that each has its own part to play. Woman should stand to man as the inspirer and helper. I hold that when she leaves the duties of her domestic life and gives so much of the best of herself to doing what she considers her part in public life, in making and affecting laws, she is leaving her home open to influences that presently will be beyond her control. It is a deeper, greater, more superb womanhood, asleep in the hearts of women today, that must be evoked.

Every other thing in life should be sacrificed to the advancement of the Christos-spirit in the home. Where the desire for it is, there the help will come. He who aspires to do a noble thing — and in his heart is reaching out towards it constantly, seeking the inmost sanctum of his being and desiring help and light — will get what he demands from the immortal source, though not by any special favor: the divinity in the soul always responds to the call of a mind open and ready to receive. That divinity is there, behind our daily consciousness, urging us forever to thought-flights out into the vast skies of truth.

We need to unfetter ourselves from creeds and dogmas, from bias and all preconceived notions, to step out into the sunlight of each day with the confidence of the warrior and dare to think with a courage that breeds persistency as it goes and meets truth half way. The intense force of one soul and mind working in harmony with the higher law could change a nation in a moment.

One need not go away from one's own home to learn these things. Knowledge of them is to be found in the inmost recesses of one's being; and who finds it there becomes impregnable to external influences. When the soul has control over the mind, one is not satisfied with faith but must have knowledge today and more knowledge tomorrow, happiness today and more happiness tomorrow, until the very flowers in the garden bloom for one more beautifully every morning, and the birds sing sweeter, and the sun shines more brightly. For those who partake of this wisdom, and whose will is set to live this life, are fed at the Master's table.

IV — The Needs and the Wants of our Children

A home established on these lines would have within it indeed the kingdom of heaven. Storms might rage without — trials, poverty, struggles, tragedies, disappointments of all kinds, might assail its peace from without — but no matter how many or how great they might be, they could not daunt the builders of this home, who have heaven within, reflected in a homelife which is the expression of the higher law. Their children would be born into the wonder of the new happiness with which its atmosphere would be filled. Before the birth of each, they would make preparations for it in much more than the ordinary sense. They married understandingly, this couple, with knowledge of the laws of life: they were companions, and not merely lovers. A child is born to them, but their states of mind were fashioning its character before it saw the light. The influence of all the harmony, peace, hope, courage which they have brought into their lives was preparing for it a larger, broader path than is common, and an environment fit for a soul to live in; so that it finds itself after birth not exiled in this world but at once at home in its surroundings.

The great figures of history — the composers, artists, poets — have been harbingers of the greatness humanity may become; but theosophy aims to place before children ideals higher than inspired the greatest of them. These parents, from the moment their child can raise its hand in impatience or restlessness, will feel that its education must begin there in the sacred atmosphere of the home. How carefully they will fashion their thoughts and actions, how guardedly. Their sense of duty to the soul of their child, their love for it, is leading them out into a love for every living thing.

They recognize the complexity of its nature. Man, to take his rightful place in life, must understand that there are three factors in his being: the body and mind that are mortal, and the soul that is immortal — the body the temple, and the mind the instrument, of the inner god who is the soul. All three must be considered in education. It is not only that the body needs care, and that the mind must be trained, there is this new idea: the soul must be led forth to take its dominant part in every thought and deed.

They realize, then, that in their child is an immortal self, part of the great scheme of life: a mystery to and in itself because it has not yet finished the journey of its evolution. It is a spark of deity seeking expression, seeking encouragement, in order that it may become a living light in the world — that the body may grow into fullness of health and beauty, the mind into efficiency and keenness of aspiration, while the soul builds of the physical atoms and mental qualities there marshaled under the mystery of natural law a dwelling place fit for itself, a shrine for the living god.

They cannot and will not attempt to say when or where it has lived before, but they know — they must, if they would understand the child — that it is a soul, with a path stretching out before it into eternity, and a past behind it, eternal also, of which nothing is known; and that even now in its infancy it may be getting glimpses of the vast future and the beauty and glory of infinite life.

With such ideas they can never bring themselves to feel that the little animal body must be fed and indulged according to its desires. Too many mothers fail to discriminate between the needs and the wants of their children, with the result that before they know it the animal lower minds of the latter are governing the home. There is nothing of that sort here. You will not find the child eating sweets, or given food, between meals. The food it has at meal times is simple, nutritious, carefully prepared, and enough to sustain it during the day; and the parents would no more think of giving it more than that than they would think of giving it poison. It is not allowed to build up in its body, by over- and irregular eating, the forces that would make for its body's undoing. It is taught in its earliest years to guard against the creeping desires that enter the mind, and a habit of thought is formed in this way that will last it through life.

The incessant clinking of knives and forks and clatter of dishes are not to be heard here. The mother is not forever wearing herself out preparing food, nor the father worrying about the bills to be paid tomorrow, nor is either overmuch concerned with the demands of the neighbors and of society. The spirit of selfish competition is not cultivated, but instead there is an effort to grow as the flowers grow, reaching up toward the sun: not spasmodically, not influenced by this or that fad or doctrine or the opinions of such-a-one or so-and-so — not influenced by anything but the knowledge that comes through consciousness of the divinity within.

The result is that their child — their son, let us say — is constantly gaining; constantly receiving, from the first, the divine touch and benediction of real knowledge, real love. The atmosphere of the home is opening the way for a more complete education than the world knows about today.

V — Building The Souls of our Little Ones

They know, do these parents, that nothing comes of continually telling a child to be good or it will be scolded or punished, that it serves no purpose at all. They do not believe that humanity can be saved by platitudes. Nor will they deceive themselves with such ideas as that their child is better than other people's children and cannot make mistakes as they do.

They know that unless a boy has the knowledge that will enable him to control his animal nature, he only half lives; and that it is pitifully useless to wait until that most difficult time when the strange mysteries of life arise in a boy's own nature and almost overwhelm it, and then to try to set him right with punishments and corrective discipline. That is not the time, nor are those the means. It would be well for us all to forget the harsh measures our unillumined minds have devised for dealing with our children, who should instead be brought from the first into the sunshine of life and the music and beauty of those inner worlds their souls could tell us about if we understood the language of the soul.

The mother daily impresses upon her child's mind the fact that there are things he should and things he should not do, and though he may understand but little, the impression will remain and a sense of right and wrong will be growing. She treats him always with a view to making him strong physically and morally: strong to bear his karma. She is careful less to hold suffering away from him, than to help him suffer and unburden himself that he may grow. Always her thought is of his needs and not of his wants: of the needs of his whole being, body, mind, heart, soul.

This does not win from her a mere passing thought now and again: she has her hour of devotion each day, wholly given to it. By the time the child is a year old and not so helpless, nor his mind so undeveloped, as you think — he has lived before, he is sensitive to a voice all whose intonations express the harmony that can only come from the soul — that spirit of devotion so daily nurtured in her directs her to use music in his education: the kind of music, deep, pure, and beautiful, that will not set the little limbs jerking in response but silences their restlessness and quiets away every tendency to fidget. For these home-builders have studied music and know that it is, so to say, the voice of the divine soul in man; and that the very atoms of their child's body respond to its ennobling formative influence till the spirit of real music — impersonal, dispassionate, not to be soiled — grows into his life and becomes a part of it.

Then too she goes out with him into nature and shows him the stars and wonders of the sky, and teaches him to love the sun and birds and flowers and every breathing thing. And this not once a year or once in three months or only occasionally: daily she finds time to take him, if it is but a mile or half a mile, away from the rush and whirl of modern life with its selfishness and greed and inconsistency, and away from the judgment of her neighbors. Out there in the silence and the unspoiled places she wastes no time in catering to his wants and desires, however many kisses he might return for the giving: her mind is still and always on his real needs.

Childlike in her love, she goes out with her child into the domains of nature; and while his eyes are happy with the blue sky and the beauty of trees and flowers, and his ears with the birds' songs and the winds' whisperings, his inner self is being nurtured by and is reveling in the beauty of its own realm — that great nature to which he belongs, of which he is part. And all this is instead of shutting him up in some little kindergarten,* or sending him out in the care of some ignorant nursemaid, or tricking him up for show in fancy clothes.

*In the 1920s, kindergartens were equivalent to today's preschools. — Ed.

From this contact with nature the mother herself is no less a gainer than her child is. What she gains is as real, as spiritual, as the delight we get from poetry or music or art: an influence out of the silence of things, out of the quietude of eternity. She brings it back into her home, and it is there for her husband when he returns from the strain of his business: an atmosphere in which the selfish side of his nature finds nothing to respond to it, no nourishment; in which all his unrest is dissipated and dispelled, and his nerves are given the healing influences of deep peace. She brings into her home a benediction out of the depths of nature and of herself. She has discovered a system beyond that of any educator, and in this aroma of love and wisdom, sunshine and harmony, she finds the selfish desires of her child ever growing fewer and weaker because he knows within himself that what he is receiving is that which meets his real needs.

And so he grows from infancy into childhood, becoming no hothouse plant, delicate and fragile, but so far as his heredity and evolution permit forming for himself a thoroughly balanced character and preparing himself to go out into life with understanding and unafraid. You will not find him smiling one hour and crying the next — now delightful, interesting, and unselfish and then just the opposite; he is all the time evenly at his best, very quiet and full of sunshine. It is something basic that delights you in him — no precocity, nothing prodigious.

Thus the first four years are made the four cornerstones of his life. They are the setting for the whole of his future, on which it is built.

VI — The Forming of the Mind

Then the education of his mind must begin, since the mind is the instrument of the soul, the piano on which the master musician plays. But he must not yet be troubled with his A B C's. He must be taught something about the life of mankind. There must be lessons in history, but nothing that implies poring over books. He must not be pushed into booklore until he has been taught to feel that there is that in himself also which knows, so that he can look into a book cheerfully and with trust. His mother will begin by showing him colored pictures of the peoples of the earth and the flags of the nations till a sense of the bigness of the world is growing in him, and the idea of internationalism, and he has acquired a certain interest in the nations and a desire to know something about them, something of their languages.

By such simple methods she teaches him, between the ages of four and seven, to use his mind. His brain is not strained: she teaches him the greatest lessons in the very simplest way. "We do not live, dear," she tells him, "just in this little house, or town, or country; but in the great world, the peoples of which, though they are so different, are all members of the same family."

By the age of seven, too, he has been taught to realize thoroughly, not with pride or self-love, that his body is the temple and abiding-place of something more beautiful than can be told, for whose sake it must be cared for and governed and his mind educated; and to master the difficulties and overcome the wants that arise within him. He has built up his character and strengthened his will: is no saint, but is becoming quite natural. He will be prepared to meet when it comes that serious age when a boy stands confronted by the mysteries of physical life and discovers within himself the two sides of nature, and knows that the battle of his life has begun.

In all children's lives the fourteenth year is a most important one. The boy who has been allowed his own way, and to be governed by his wants, finds hell awaiting him then. The psychology of the age opens to him all possible doors of temptation. Often we see youth and the general appearance of innocence and so much else that is promising that it seems impossible that the life should ever be soiled; and yet it is already soiled. Do not blame the children! They are ignorant of the laws of their being, and the last people they would think of speaking to about these mysterious trials and temptations and experiences would be their fathers and mothers. Doctors rarely touch on this subject and the children drift and drift, and you see nothing on the outside — only restlessness, peculiarities, appetites, passions.

But these parents, in this ideal home, have been behind their son always. They would almost as soon, in his childhood, that he should have seen crime committed as have read about it. Above all they have been infinitely careful what contacts he has made and what influences he has come under. Guests are entertained in many homes because of their wealth or social standing, without any proper investigation of their private character. All transgressors are not behind bars by any means. There are moral lepers, awful in their influence, among those, often, who pass as respectable and are prominent in the community — and one does not need to have transgressed in action to sin against the Holy Ghost. It is in the man himself, in his attitude of mind.

There have been no such invasions of this home. The mother and father have been on guard. They have stood behind their boy always: they have known his mind, they have protected him. And now that he is fourteen and has come into the time of perils, a certain self-directed effort is apparent in him — calmness, repose, a strength of character have grown up; he understands and controls his outer self. Perhaps he could answer no questions on this subject, because his knowledge is out in a larger field than that of words. But in the silence of his deeper nature he has an instinctive perception of the difference between right and wrong, and it is enough to carry him unscathed past the many temptations that unquestionably assail youth at that age.

VII — Pivotal Points in Youth and Manhood

He grows up. He does not allow himself to be deflected by ambition from the great purposes. The thoughts that possess his mind are those that come in from the soul, from realms where the god in him is king. His mind is attuned to eternal beauty.

He knows the value of time, the sacredness of the moments and the duties that belong to them. His nature is so frank and straight as to be, so to say, impregnable. Knowing that his mind is the instrument through which the soul must work, he does not burden it with trashy reading or dissipation. Nor has he overstrained it with study, nor made too definite plans for the future. His ambition is to be natural, to do faithfully each duty as it comes to hand, to achieve for himself a harmony of the physical, mental, and spiritual forces.

At twenty-one he reaches another pivotal point. He has learned a largeness of view by observation and sympathy: his outlook is no longer a boy's, but a man's. Yet he is no less hungry for knowledge than ever he was. Every day is a school of experience for him, and he looks forward, not to graduating from some institution and having done with it, but to going on studying and learning through this and all his future lives.

He has not been carried away by the first emotions of romance nor allowed his blood so to be fired as to compel him to assume responsibilities for which even in a material and financial sense he is not prepared. There is plenty of time, he knows, in which to work out whatever may be in his heart. Meanwhile he has to establish himself in business, and begins to do so — perhaps in a small way.

In whatever occupation he chooses, you will find him creating for himself an atmosphere. Everything about him is clean: no words are needed to say that some purifying force is active in him day and night which is only latent in most men. He cares nothing for competition, does not strive to push himself ahead in politics or as a leading light in his city, has no will to amass wealth at the expense of others — he has studied economics and realized what duties and responsibilities they imply, and has another view of things. He acts at all times calmly, following middle lines, and so daily builds up something of character — ought we not to think at least as much of character as we do of scholarship or intellectual acumen? He is not hastening things; he is satisfied to do his duty today and to be conscious tomorrow of having done it. And so, firmly based in right action — never to be separated from that — he stands in a sense as a god among men.

He is a thorough optimist. He could not be pessimistic because he has so lived as to keep his vision unblurred and therefore sees life as it is, knows that these surface appearances are unstable and transient, and that the reality is the undercurrent which is not seen. How generous he must be, then, how free from condemnation, how compassionate to those who err, and tolerant of other men's beliefs.

Realizing that the duty of another is full of danger, he avoids the pitfalls that entrap so many. He knows that overdoing is in the result as bad as underdoing. He follows the lines of least resistance, aware that extremes bring reaction. He cultivates a spirit of cooperation, and it is all humanity that he cooperates with. He is trained to know the difference between the angel and the brute in human nature, and no matter how often he may have slipped or faltered, he has arrived at manhood a splendid type of man.

Now he steps out into a profession, perhaps becomes a lawyer — and, surely, a blessing to the state and to the nation because he is so clear in his conceptions of duty that he can interpret even the common law from the standpoint of conscience and justice. Or he may become a professor at a university, and there, because he understands that the soul is the real enlightener and the mind but the instrument of the soul, he is a light among the highly trained of intellect: a new type of professor with a new view of education as of life — and presently a new type of university, and then a new and better type of youth, must result.

Or he may go into politics and be sent to the Senate, there, with the knowledge that thought can be brought as low as hell itself by passion and desire or carried to the heights of heaven where the will is to serve humanity, to exercise the duties of a lawmaker. Or he may become the head of a prison, and with the bigness of his soul, his compassion and love of justice, work zealously for better conditions. And the young men behind bars and those who are waiting, perhaps, to be hanged — even the worst of them may find within the heart of this one young man a hope that all the books and sermons and all the laws have failed to give them, because the knowledge that is in him is real knowledge and behind it is the divine compassion of the soul.

VIII — Girlhood, Womanhood, and Marriage

And now imagine that a girl has been growing up under like influences somewhere — her parents also gifted with understanding of duty, her home also utopian — and that these two should meet and marry. Their courtship and marriage would be of a new order: something unknown in the world, sacred.

Real love is that which lifts one's nature above the ordinary and fills the soul with compassion. It is impersonal: a rounding out of the character under the inspiration of a lofty and spiritual kind of thought; a bringing of one's noblest possibilities into action through self-sacrifice for the sake of another. One who has loved in this way will know something, for example, of the power of imagination. We take nothing into our minds but it either expands there in its strength and beauty, or it deteriorates into vileness and decay. He who loves ideally, idealizes the object of his love; and if this be done seriously and wisely — the faults and weaknesses of the one so idealized at the same time recognized and withstood — it is a process that makes love creative. The idealization tends to become ever more actual, and the common stuff of human life is glorified.

The girl to whom love means this will not be tempted by a handsome face or a sympathetic voice, or by intellectuality or wealth or position. She will take no step until the right time, and when she does, will know where she is stepping. Hers will be a real marriage. Marriage when it is real is profoundly sacred; then no power on earth can break up the home. All the trouble is in the mismatchings.

The woman in the sacred home is not an unthinking drudge for the man, still less the ornamental plaything for his pleasure, but as it were the priestess of that temple and a sure link for him with spiritual things. So when this lawyer or statesman or teacher or prison worker goes back to his home from work, something divine is waiting in the atmosphere there for him. The children are brought up on the same principles as they were; but there has been growth. With this mother and father there is a larger vision than their parents had — more knowledge, wider experience, broader views and outlook, more facilities, better environment.

It becomes not difficult to look forward through two or three generations and see more and more utopian homes arising, more and more children brought into the world and educated under the influence of the soul-life — or to look forward through two or three centuries and see thousands of human beings of the new and noble type going forth upon their purifying mission into the life of the world, all under the sacred influence that began in that one home.


Chapter 5

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