The Inevitability of Success and Failure - 3
The manifestation of a great Avatar
as the spiritual seed from which a new culture sooner or later germinates is also a repetitive process. As explained, each manifestation has its own quality; each stresses one specific aspect of archetypal Man — or in a religious sense, one of the "Names" of God — which it is the culture's dharma (truth of being) to actualize. Each Avatar "grafts" a spiritual-mental Quality upon evolving human nature, which at first is a strictly biological system of organization. Human nature, however, resists change, and this resistance is the basic cause of existential evil.
In this sense, the refusal to follow "the way, the truth, and the life" exemplified by the Avatar, or more accurately, to accept his power as a driving force in one's outer and inner life, is at the root of human failure, be it an individual failure or the failure of an entire culture. Yet individual and collective failures are not easy to distinguish from one another, because individuals build and develop collective religious and social institutions, which in turn structure and dominate the collective psychism of whole cultures — which in turn condition individuals. Collective psychism is the binding energy integrating the members of a culture, somewhat as life energy (prana or chi) integrates the cells of a biological organism.(2
) Social and religious institutions structure the collective psychism of a culture; they derive their spiritual power from the energy generated in the culture's collective psychism by the "descent" of the new avataric manifestation. But all too often, social and religious leaders use the energy embodied in the institutions to gain power over people they should (and perhaps at first do) serve. Thus the culture's institutions and the drive toward unity become unduly limited, rigid, and even perverted. Eventually, the culture must break down.
When the time comes for the process of individualization to develop in earnest, religions and cultures sanction it in the name of Avatars who projected into the human world the particular spiritual Quality of autonomous and centralized selfhood, the "I am" which the members of the culture are intended to embody. But the power of the divine release is always used to build collective institutions, while individual human beings react to it by developing ever more blatant and aggressive egos obscuring or even negating their spiritual individuality. In most instances, humanity proceeds from failure to failure (partial though they be) toward only relative success. Perhaps the biblical "two thirds" do so, perhaps more, because in the "remnant" that is tested, many may not pass the test. Nevertheless, human failures must occur as long as the principle of Multiplicity dominates the world-stage before the symbolic Sunset — before the omega of the world of existence.
Atoms, plants, and animals cannot fail. They may, however, reflect the karma of failure of the planet as a whole or — for example in the case of cancerous cells — of mankind as a whole. Any human being can fail; and this is Man's greatness as well as his responsibility. The fact of failure must be accepted unemotionally, with the realization that by failing, Man arouses Compassion in the Godhead state. Nevertheless, one must not take one's own failure lightly and dismiss its existential results, which can be drastic and ultimately devastating indeed; nor should one succumb to the attraction of forces in one's nature or in society which glamorize the past, recycle its obsolete features in seemingly new symbols and collective institutions, and thereby incite failure.
Collective institutions presumably will be needed by human beings of average consciousness for many millennia to come; yet, though they condition the behavior of growing human beings and set limits to the forms creativity may take, they need not blind the consciousness of determined and mentally open individuals. One must render unto the collective what belongs to the collective, and to the individual what belongs to the individual. For any human being who is ready and able to become truly an individual, failure occurs only when, under pressures seemingly too heavy to bear, the would-be individual surrenders his or her consciousness and will — the sense of individual power and selfhood — to the collective norm.
The individual must be able to stand alone, even amidst the collectivity in which he or she was born and educated. He or she must find security in a vivid, repeated, and clear realization of individual selfhood rather than "take refuge" in an institution and its collective dharma, however beautiful and calming this dharma may be. Illumined Man must reach Illumination as an individual. Even though transfigured by the Meaning of Wholeness and sustained by the invisible Companions whose sublime Communion he or she is about to join, the individual is essentially alone — and free to fail if traces of pride or longing for the past remain in his or her personality.
In the supreme equinoctial moment in human evolution, when the strength of the principles of Unity and Multiplicity are equal and Alpha polarizes Omega, whether we think of individuals having far outdistanced the masses of mankind or of the spiritualized humanity of the Last Day, Man passes through the Gate of Silence into a world of ever-increasing subjectivity. Passing through this awe-inspiring threshold, the mind becomes the mirror in which God the Creator radiates the Light of the rising Sun of the universal dharma that once aroused Chaos into space-time and motion. In Illumined Man resonates this creative Word, which is Sound and Light; and in this resonance the Wholeness of every whole that is, has been, and ever will be sings the supreme Meaning of all-encompassing being.
The term psychism
will be defined in more detail in Chapter 8. Also, see my book Beyond Individualism: The Psychology of Transformation
(Wheaton, II.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1979). Return
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