Universal Brotherhood – June 1898
by The Theosophical University Press©
THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY PASADENA - US
All human progress is in circles, and never directly in straight lines. Such is the course of events, the order of the seasons, the career of the stars in the sky. After all advancing there is an apparent going backward; all growth has its periods of retardation, all ascent its descendings likewise. We find this abundantly confirmed by example in the brief space of human activity of which we have been able to obtain historic records. Where it has been imagined otherwise, we can find it only apparently so. Where there is evolution and manifestation, there has always been a prolific seed to set the development in motion. The fragrant Nymphaea, the creamy pond-lily, or the sacred lotus, may have sordid mud for its birthplace and maintenance, but it began with a rudimentary plant. The like is always engendered from its like.
We may be content, therefore, to contemplate ourselves as having a human ancestry all the way to remote ages. We are perfectly safe in relegating the simian races to their own, with the assurance of the Creed — "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." The origin of human beings may be counted as from the source to which their nobler aspirations tend. The oak and the pine grow toward the sky, because the effort is instinctive in the seed. We have good reason to presume as much in regard to ourselves. In regard, however, to conjectures about dates and periods we do not care to speculate. The point in the past is yet to be found at which a memorial of human beginnings may be set. Indeed, it is a matter entirely beyond our power of thinking. We do well to rest content with deducing what we may from the facts at our hand, and from the intuitions with which we are endowed. There is innate in us all a desire and aptitude to learn what is beyond the scope of our present knowing. Our animal wants come first, and are peremptory, but the gratifying of them does not set us free from unrest. We are conscious that we are something else than brute animals, and it is manifest in the passion to know, and possess. The infant child will cry for the moon, explore the flame of the candle with his fingers, and pull the doll to pieces in order to find out the mystery of its construction. He even becomes curious about existence. I have heard a child that had attained to vocal speech discourse extensively and as from actual memory, of his residence and employments in the years before he was born. When, likewise, the phenomenon of dying is beheld, children become inquisitive about it, eager to know what has actually occurred, whether it is all or there is still living and being in some mode and form not plain to them. They are not willing to admit that the person is no more.
In this eager passion for more perfect knowing, and in these curious conjectures, are manifested the instinct of that life which is beyond time, and scintillations of the grander truth. The mind seems to exhibit the reflection of some concept, some memory of the Aforetime, and to have caught with it as by refraction from the other direction, an impression of the life continuing. From views like these the poet Wordsworth was prompted to write his memorable verse: "Heaven hangs about us in our infancy."
There has been in every people having as such a worship and literature, the memory or conception of a primitive period of felicity. "The races of men were wont to live as gods," says Hesiod. "Their life was devoid of care, labor and trouble; no wretched old age hung imminent over them, but with hands and feet always vigorous as in youth they enjoyed themselves without any illness, and when at last they died it was as though they had been overcome by sleep. They are now benignant demons hovering about the earth, and guardian spirits over human beings."