Libra Festival Talk
The text which follows was an address given by a member of the Headquarters staff of Lucis Trust at one of our public meetings. The purpose of these brief talks is to prepare and seed the group mind for the real work to be done--group meditation. This talk can be used by individuals and groups who wish to cooperate with this service.
Life as a Game of Balance
One of the most resonant slogans to have come out of humanity’s long progress in the political field is the famous motto from the French Revolution, "Liberty, equality, fraternity". We can translate two of these three terms into language more familiar from the works of Alice Bailey: "Liberty" is "Freedom", and "fraternity" is "right human relationships", and in just over two weeks we will be focusing more closely on the meaning of these terms at the annual World Goodwill Seminar. Just to mention, for those who are planning to attend, that the venue has changed - instead of the Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria, where we held past events, we are holding it at a hotel only five minutes walk away from the Grosvenor, the Thistle Westminster; so, fortunately, any travel arrangements you’ve made for past events don’t have to change.
Turning to the third term, "equality", a direct and obvious translation into the language of Alice Bailey isn’t quite so simple. There is one passage where the Tibetan makes it plain that it is not quite what is conventionally understood by the term. He says: "‘Equality’ is that peculiar understanding which the Coming One will reveal and which is based on a right sense of proportion, correct Self-respect, and understanding of the spiritual, yet natural, laws of Rebirth and of Cause and Effect, and which will be founded in future centuries on the recognition of the age of a soul's experience and gained development, and not at all on the loud emphatic affirmation that ‘all men are equal.’" (Ext. p.272) In other passages, the Tibetan indicates that true equality is founded upon the fact that each human being is equally an expression of Divinity, which links it to one of the six Laws and Principles which are said to condition the New Age, namely, the Principle of Essential Divinity. Finally, we could suggest that "equality" as referred to in human politics can be connected to an idea which the Tibetan mentions quite frequently, which is, the principle of sharing - for it is only by right sharing of resources that the nations and peoples of the world will arrive at a balanced and fair distribution.
The matter of a fairer distribution of resources in society has been highlighted recently by the epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their work The Spirit Level, where they demonstrate how a greater degree of income inequality is closely correlated with an increase in a wide range of health and social problems. Another angle on right sharing/distribution is that a number of green economists have suggested that what we need to aim for is a steady-state economy, i.e. one which neither grows nor shrinks, but is in dynamic equilibrium with the planet’s ecological systems. It is interesting to note the way in which a lack of growth in an economy is regarded by conventional economics as a huge problem - as we all know from the reporting of the current financial crisis. But perhaps we are seeing another example of humanity having to learn by means of evil that good is best.
Before we continue, can we take a few moments of silence, and then sound together the Affirmation of the Disciple:
I am a point of light within a greater Light.
I am a way by which men may achieve.
And standing thus, revolve
As we know, Libra concerns balance; and thus by implication, the upsetting of balance. Now one of the main rays which govern Humanity is the 4th ray of harmony through conflict, which might also be seen as balance through imbalance. Interestingly, in the physical body, motion is often achieved through two sets of muscles, one of which contracts when the other expands. One set is the agonist, the other the antagonist. So yet another name for 4th ray might be the ray of antagonistic cooperation. In the book, Through the Eyes of the Masters, an interesting example of this process in the context of the Hierarchical Plan is given: "The ideal of Unity in Diversity… is so completely realised by the Masters that although on the surface They may sometimes appear to be working in opposition, in reality they are working in perfect accord, their manifold branches of activity blending with one another as do the colours of the spectrum.
Thus [in the 19th] century when Victorian bigotry and religious narrow-mindedness had reached a climax, one of the Masters, in order to counteract this, inspired the Agnostic Movement. This in its turn showed signs of becoming over-emphasized, so to adjust the balance another of the Masters inspired the Spiritualistic Movement. A little later Master Koot Hoomi and Master Morya sponsored the Theosophical Society through their much-maligned disciple, Madame Blavatsky. Then yet another Master inspired Christian Science. All these movements were operative simultaneously, and each in opposition to the other. Haeckel swept aside belief in the soul as pure superstition, Madame Blavatsky informed the spiritualists that their spirits were but empty shells, while Mrs Eddy pronounced Theosophy to be an ‘error of mortal mind’, and Victorian bigots condemned each and all of these Movements as anti-christian machinations of the devil. Meanwhile the Masters, although they deplored these intolerant denunciations, patiently watched each Movement to gauge its effect on the great Evolutionary Scheme, towards the carrying out of which They work so harmoniously together." (pp.12-13)
A familiar expression is, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". This leads to a consideration of the right balance between work and play or leisure, the so-called ‘work-life’ balance which is becoming an increasingly important political issue, at least in rich countries (of course, the very fact that we can talk about rich and poor countries points to another major imbalance which must be corrected through the principle of sharing.) The Tibetan predicts that the incoming seventh ray, which is energising the etheric plane and hence the etheric bodies of Humanity, "will produce great changes in the mode of work and labour and above everything else in the leisure activities of the race." (Destiny pp.133-4)
The Tibetan also predicted that the use of atomic energy could lead us in this direction. He says: "The constructive use of [atomic] energy and its harnessing for the betterment of humanity is its real purpose; this living energy of substance itself, hitherto shut up within the atom and imprisoned in these ultimate forms of life, can be turned wholly into that which is good and can bring about such a revolutionising of the modes of human experience that (from one angle alone) it will necessitate and bring about an entirely new economic world structure.
It lies in the hands of the United Nations to protect this released energy from misuse and to see that its power is not prostituted to selfish ends and purely material purposes. It is a ‘saving force’ and has in it the potency of rebuilding, of rehabilitation and of reconstruction. Its right use can abolish destitution, bring civilised comfort (and not useless luxury) to all upon our planet; its expression in forms of right living, if motivated by right human relations, will produce beauty, warmth, colour, the abolition of the present forms of disease, the withdrawal of mankind from all activities which involve living or working underground, and will bring to an end all human slavery, all need to work or fight for possessions and things, and will render possible a state of life which will leave man free to pursue the higher aims of the Spirit. The prostituting of life to the task of providing the bare necessities or to making it possible for a few rich and privileged people to have too much when others have too little, will come to an end; men everywhere can now be released into a state of life which will give them leisure and time to follow spiritual objectives, to realise richer cultural life, and to attain a broader mental perspective." (Ext. pp.498-9)
Why has this vision not come to pass? The Tibetan gives us a stern warning, which, regrettably, seems to have been warranted: "But, my brothers, men will fight to prevent this; the reactionary groups in every country will neither recognise the need for, nor desire this new world order which the liberation of cosmic energy (even on this initial tiny scale) can make possible; the vested interests, the big cartels, trusts and monopolies that controlled the past few decades, preceding this world war, will mobilise their resources and fight to the death to prevent the extinction of their sources of income; they will not permit, if they can help it, the passing of the control of this illimitable power into the hands of the masses, to whom it rightly belongs." (Ibid.)
As adults, most of us tend to regard ‘play’ as to do with children – we find other words to describe what we do when we are not working – hobbies, pastimes, sport etc.. However, they fulfil the same role, and stand in contrast to the concept of work, as that which has to be done in order to ‘earn a living’. Indeed, there is perhaps an undercurrent of envy among ordinary workers doing rather boring jobs, directed at those whose ‘work’ appears on the surface to be doing the sorts of things that most people do as hobbies – artists, athletes, entertainers etc.. Yet upon closer examination, we would probably find that most of those involved in these fields have to work hard to build and maintain a career, and are by no means free of the constraint to earn their living. It is only a fortunate few who, through innate talent, or luck, or a combination, are able to pick and choose in their career; and by the nature of their occupation, it is those few who receive the lion’s share of the world’s attention.
So ‘play’, as something either childish, or the enviable and out-of-reach pursuit of the rich and famous, does not seem to be a particularly positive concept. Yet perhaps we should re-consider the opposition between work and play, seeing it as the opposition between work as activity that is constrained by circumstances beyond our control, and play as activity that is inherently free, and thus an expression of our true self. This connection with freedom and the perfection of the self is echoed in a number of places in the Bailey books, in such phrases as, "the free play of the light of the soul", "the free play of the intuition", "the free play of your love nature", "the free play of the divine Spirit", and perhaps most conclusively in the following sentence: "The goal of meditation is to bring about the free play of all the incoming forces so that there is no impediment offered at any point to the incoming energy of the soul". In his book, Magic Dance, the Tibetan Buddhist Thinley Norbu introduces the idea of ‘playmind’, suggesting that, "When we work, if we have open playmind, we will not have fears of losing anything so we can work continuously until we attain our goal. With the confidence that comes from playmind, we never hesitate and do not make mistakes. Doubts and hesitations come from a mind that is too rigidly serious." Perhaps, in the spirit of the balancing nature of Libra, we can see the need to find a balance between the two poles – play as the free exploration of possibility, the phase of seeking inspiration; and work as the deliberate process of limiting and putting into form that which has been contacted in play.
When we think of play, another very close association is games; and the root meaning of "game" is on the face of it quite simple: "amusement, joy". However, further investigation links it to an older meaning of "participation, communion". In fact, one of the most significant global examples of participation, the Olympic Games, is, as we know, scheduled for London next year. More correctly, one should refer to this as the Summer Olympic Games, as of course there are also Winter Games. You may not know that there is also a Youth Olympic Games, which took place for the first time in Singapore this year. The Olympic Games are administered by the International Olympic Committee, which operates according to the Olympic Charter. The Charter contains a number of fundamental provisions, among which perhaps the highest is the 4th - "[To] Cooperate with the competent public or private organizations and authorities in the endeavor to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace". The original inspiration for the Games comes from ancient Greece, where the city-states of Greece competed every 4 years, over a period of more than 1000 years. It was primarily a religious festival, dedicated to Zeus; and it also attracted artists. The UK seems to have attempted to reinvigorate this cultural dimension with the Cultural Olympiad, a 4 year celebration of culture culminating in the London 2012 Festival from 21 June to 9 September. Among the other traditions which the modern Games has inherited from its ancient precursor are the sacred flame - now extended into the idea of the carrying of the flaming torch from Olympus to the current site of the Olympics - and the Olympic Truce. It is worth noting that the Tibetan remarks that, "Two symbols are at this time taking form as the basis of the coming civilisation. These are the lotus and the flaming torch." (Es.Psych. Vol.II, p.506)
One of the most important qualities of any game is its degree of fairness, which is another way of talking about balance, for an uneven contest is not usually fun to participate in or, unless an observer is hopelessly partisan, to watch. It is interesting to note that there are two games of the mind which have endured for many centuries, one, chess, primarily played in the West (though it originated in India), the other, go, mainly played in the East (although its popularity is growing in the West). Because of their longevity, the rules have had the time to settle into as close an approximation of fairness as may be possible, even though in both games, the person moving first is acknowledged to have an advantage. There has been considerable debate in chess circles whether this advantage is sufficient to force a win, with the general consensus that it probably isn’t (although that would only really matter between two players whose abilities are exactly equal). Because of the way a win in go is calculated, those who make the rules have devised an ingenious way to make the play as even as possible, awarding a small number of points to the player moving second. Indeed, unlike chess, which is mainly concerned with the destructive purpose of removing pieces, with the opponent’s King as the ultimate target, go is by nature largely constructive. It has been described as a sharing game, with the aim being to find a way to peacefully co-exist, although since it’s a game, there is a criterion set for winning. Some people have drawn parallels with Zen: for example, because, like Life, its incredible complexity doesn’t readily lend itself to rigid guidelines on the right way to act, instead what there are are rules of thumb, or even more suggestively, proverbs about good ways to play; a few are seemingly paradoxical statements like Zen koans - e.g one proverb is "Don’t follow proverbs blindly". Some have suggested that go leaves greater room than chess for the intuition as the immediate grasping of wholes, particularly as, unlike chess, go pieces which are so nearly surrounded as to be effectively captured are not usually removed from the board until the very end, and so these pieces can continue to have effects on play, sometimes quite surprising ones that could not have been calculated from their initial placement. In addition to the inbuilt fairness of minimising the advantage of the player who starts, as mentioned earlier, go also has a very well-developed handicapping system, which lends itself to weaker and stronger players both being able to enjoy a game on relatively equal terms. Another notable psychological aspect which could be linked to spiritual traditions in the East is that there is a strong master/pupil ethos in go, and also a wider expectation that stronger players will help weaker ones to improve. Sacrifice is also a very significant theme in go, more so arguably than in chess. And each move in go either upsets a local equilibrium or attempts to restore it, as part of the eventual goal of reaching a global equilibrium at the end of the game.
Both go and chess help teach the skill of visualisation, and playing style can be revelatory of character. In one sense, a good game of go or chess can be more like an intriguing argument, with its points of agreement and disagreement over relative values. As in an argument, one’s degree of identification with the outcome is constantly tested; this is given sharper focus by the fact that, as in chess, go has a well-developed grading system. This helps to test one’s motives for engaging in the game - is it to improve your grading? Simply to pass the time? To engage in the continuing struggle for excellence? Or to foster deeper communion?
Giving a balanced proportion of life to games and to play can help us to see our work in a more balanced perspective, and to assess the true value of our contribution. By recognising that each person’s contribution is, at one and the same time, replaceable, and yet in some sense, unique, we may come to a more humble, humorous, and realistic evaluation of our own place in the grand design. So let us now enter into our work of meditation with the free play of our imagination.
Libra Full Moon Festival,