I have been pondering recently the difference between spirituality as a life style and spirituality as a quest. Consider the following Blavatsky quote (the modernized English is mine) from The Voice of the Silence, The Seven Portals:
Before you stand on the threshold of the path; before you cross the foremost Gate, you have to merge the two in the One and sacrifice the personal to SELF impersonal, and thus destroy the ‘path’ between the two – antaskarana.
You have to be prepared to answer Dharma, the stern law, whose voice will ask you at your first, your initial step:
“Have you complied with all the rules, you with your lofty hopes?”
“Have you attuned your heart and mind to the great mind and heart of mankind? For as the sacred River’s roaring voice whereby all Nature-sounds are echoed back, so must the heart of him ‘who in the stream would enter,’ thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and breathes.”
Compare such stern words with those who treat astrology or tarot as fun amusements – not to get to know themselves better, to become better people, to find their way in life.
On the other hand when such sentiments as the above are repeated too often, as they are in theosophical circles, what happens is the opposite. So much energy goes into talking about self sacrifice, in denying self, that sometimes something of normal liveliness is lost. Something dries out, because there is no step that can be ignored on the path.
And one of those steps is precisely the second half of this quote: a felt connection with humanity as a whole. That doesn’t start with knowing how badly many people in Africa need food, medicine and education. The real connection with humanity starts at home: the natural relationships we are in. Family, friends, colleagues… Ignoring your own and their humanness is the first step towards a kind cruelty. I say ‘kind cruelty’ because sometimes the smile is there, the words are right, but the essence has somehow fled.
As I’m pondering this, not at all sure I live up to the ideals I sketch here, I come back to the basic insight that is the conclusion of many of my ponderings: While on the path extremes are often found, they have to go, because in the end there’s a balance between the impersonal and the personal. There’s a balance to be found between feeling the needs of humanity as a whole and being there facing your own and others’ real needs in day to day life.