THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 6, April, 1964
(Pages 172-174; Size: 9K)
[Article number (18) in this Q&A Department]
Every human being, we are often told, and every other point of consciousness in the universe, has its own unique place and function in relation to the whole. Yet many people are privately in despair because they do not know what their real place should be. Just what can each of us do to find out and fulfill the special secret intention of his life?
Although many people in this vast and rootless world do not feel a deep vocation or calling in life, and so no doubt sense the poignancy of this question, they might still object to it on the basis of the way it is phrased; for as it stands, it makes several large presuppositions, one of which is that the universe is a whole, and another, that there is a unique intention for every life. Without at least a tentative acceptance of these postulates, the question is groundless, and therefore ought to be meaningless. Yet if you try to dismiss the question, to speak of the impossibility of finding proof for such presuppositions, the poignancy still remains. And in a sense, perhaps this deep and continuing malaise constitutes in itself a kind of proof. As Emerson puts it: "We grant that human life is mean, but how did we find out that it was mean? What is the ground of this uneasiness of ours, of this old discontent? What is the universal sense of want and ignorance but the fine innuendo by which the soul makes its enormous claim?"
Most people, at one time or another, have felt within themselves this claim for transcendency, but the problem for each one is to determine, within the context of everyday life, just what that claim entails. Certainly, since every ego is an individual, and is working through the web of his own karmic environment, the nature of that duty or claim will vary with each person. And if the claim is in some way being made within every spark of consciousness in evolution, there is likely to be a generic aspect as well as the particular. That is to say, at heart this duty must be quite simple, even if its individual expressions are infinite, for it is as much the duty of a tree or of a bird as of man. Perhaps most basically it is the duty to grow and to become, which means to give expression to powers latent within. If so, then as human beings we must first of all try to discover what our powers are, and how they ought to be expressed.
We must not imagine, either, that these powers are negligible; for man's connection with the rest of the universe (hinted at just now), is in reality such a deep connection that all the powers of life are latent within him, in the same way as that a seed -- the highest fulfillment of a plant's "duty" -- contains within itself all the potentialities of that plant. Or, to paraphrase Eliot's words about poetry and apply them to man himself: he is the focus and incantation of the Word. And so the process of expressing our own powers is far from easy; and, in fact, will continue for an eternity. Yet, if the powers are there and we do keep searching for them, we are bound to rediscover them, one by one, with the passing of time. As to the ways they should most naturally be expressed, we can feel sure at least that they should not be used for the detriment of other beings; for it is our duty to express them, and "duty" means "what we owe to life."
It is good to see the universal counterpart of our individual duties, to see all of life as being infused with a generalized impulse of aspiration, but of course the problem of the individual and of his particular mode of aspiration remains. One natural thing to do, in order to discover our own unique calling, is to learn to listen well; for if we do not listen, we cannot hear the call. And it is surprising how greatly our listening power may be sharpened if we maintain within ourselves a strict honesty -- for sometimes we do not hear a call because we do not really want to hear it, sensing, perhaps, that a great deal would be demanded of us if we did hear, and tried to answer. We may be sure that a great deal would indeed be demanded; all, in fact, that we can supply.
But aside from the everyday duties -- specific situations which require so much of our time and attention -- there is to be considered the over-all vocation of a lifetime. For some this vocation is made quite evident by certain inclinations or talents, but for a great many it is far from evident, and causes constant anxiety, making us ask ourselves: Is this what I was meant to spend my life doing? Is this all? In these instances, we might say that the very existence of such anxiety indicates that secretly we do demand more of ourselves than we are presently giving.
But more in what way? Is it some more noble endeavor -- material or artistic -- which we ask of ourselves, or might it be a more creative and human approach to what we are already doing? "Both thou and I," says Krishna, "have passed through many births. Mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine." If we could for a moment see all our past existences, we would no doubt learn that we have taken up at one time or another almost every conceivable vocation. This does not mean that what we do now is unimportant, for every lifetime has its own basic intention and significance. It does, though, give us a broader perspective on this matter of vocation, and indicates that no matter what we do, the most important consideration is how much we learn from our experiences, how much we grow, to what degree we have unfolded a little more of the spiritual powers within us.
And therefore, even if in spite of our attempts to listen well, and to feel our way along towards some particular vocation, we do not succeed in finding one that strikes a deep response within us, perhaps we do not really need to despair, or spend our lifetime restlessly waiting to be "called." Instead of wasting our time that way, hoping eventually to be kissed by some muse, we ourselves can let out a shout; and then follow the echo of our own voice. After all, we have worked our way through every vocation already; and if we make a conscious choice, in strict honesty, and in the hope that we can serve life best through the sort of work we are considering doing, it is difficult to imagine that we could go far wrong.
No thinking person's choices are easy these days. There has been a severing of spiritual roots, of man's natural umbilical relationship with the living center of life -- and in this country, even of historical roots. But perhaps the re-issuing of roots need not be such a terribly painful ordeal as we might imagine. It is, in some ways of course: contact with the world's sneering selfishness cannot help being another wound to our already torn inner structure. Yet there are easy ways as well. Just liking people is an easy way of healing roots, just looking at them, or looking out the window at some new apartment house and realizing how transient it is, and yet that human beings are living there, creating homes there, endowing the cold impersonal walls with their feelings, their wistful, sometimes beautiful, perhaps eternal, feelings.
[Article number (19) in this Q&A Department]
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