Sir George Trevelyan: thoughts and writings
The Recovery of Meaning
A Wrekin Trust lecture
Continually we move forward into a new moment. Perpetual new birth. The future pours into manifestation through the living forms of Nature. We are each a point to receive the future as it becomes present. New spring comes with tender green shoots. Yet behind this delicate flowering is an irresistible power.
Each man is a point of consciousness, free to control this inflow with harmony or to spread confusion and waste. Here within nature is this extraordinary human kingdom which, having free will, has no obligation to work with the beauty of the Natural Law. Each man is a vortex point through which the creative power of the inflooding future is canalised. But as self-conscious egos we can all too easily concern ourselves with the satisfying of desire rather than serving the need of the Living Whole. Just consider the wisdom working within the body of man. Consider the harmonious working of nature's Law. "Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?" With such absolute certainty and balance within the Whole does nature work.
To our dawning consciousness we realise that the Earth itself is a living organism, within a Cosmos itself shot through with creative intelligence all working in a delicately poised harmony. Integrally part of this Living Unity is the "centre that we call the race of men". Man is a creative point within the order of working of God's Law. What a responsibility! We are that point where evolution becomes conscious of itself. Therefore we are the stewards of the planet, and what have we done with our stewardship? We have, in our greed to satisfy our desires, polluted the lovely Earth and wastefully squandered the energies working in the balanced whole. Man is a spiritual being, a droplet of the Divine Source, incarnated into a soul-sheath which gives him emotional relationship to his fellow creatures, and a beautiful physical body which is really a part of Earth and links him firmly with the laws of substance.
Compare the chaos of our emotional life with the order of Natural Law. In this Planet of Wisdom, as it has been called, man, the repository of consciousness, seems to be the instrument for spreading confusion. What wonders would develop if we could bring the same order into our life of desires. Here lies the supreme possibility. If our undying Ego, our Higher Self, could take over our lower desire-self and bring it into order so that it could in our field of influence work towards ever greater harmony in meaningful action, then the face of the planet would be transformed.
Meaningful action - that is the keynote. How much of what we do is meaningless, wasteful, inharmonious. "Let Light and Love and Power restore the plan on earth". It is all very well to send up this invocation, but it will not be fulfilled by some higher source. It is we men who must consciously achieve it by bringing the Law into this living moment in our own lives and so blending with our Higher Self. Then could come a flooding of creative energy. The human individual could become a creative point for increasing the meaningful and right working of the energies of the Whole.
"How do I increase meaning significantly in the place where I happen to be?" This is Ted Matchett's formula in his important work of training for creative action. This simple statement has profound significance for US NOW. The greatest creative force is the WILL TO MEANING the active will to re-unite our own activity with the vital Unity from which the world of substance is derived. We have to conceive of a vast living continuum of Being, a structure of self-supporting Thought and Meaningful Energies, shot through and through with creative intelligence. In and through this the creative Imagining of God works. We watch the continuous working of Divine Law as it flows in an endless stream out of the future into this living Now. The Eternal Worlds flow into time through Natural Law.
And within this structure an organ for free creative action has been evolved. Here is Mankind, a hierarchy of spiritual beings, given the earth as a field of action and of training, to learn the responsibility of free will, that Divine Gift which could make man a co-creator with God. It seems as if the All Knower, loving His Creation, wished for a point within that Creation which developing the self consciousness, could become creative and so reflect back to God his own achievement. What you might call 'Creation Mark II' begins when man begins to act in freedom within the Pattern of Meaning.
By 'Meaning 'is meant the fulfilling within the moment of the needs of the living active whole which works in harmony. The intersection point of the timeless with time is everywhere and always. The whole human layer with its myriad points of consciousness constitutes the web through which the future is born into time every moment. Thus each of us within our own field of influence is responsible for realising 'Meaning' to the maximum. "Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done on Earth". Clearly this implies that His Will is not being done on Earth. All the kingdoms of nature are automatically geared to the fulfilling of His Will, except errant Man.
All the angelic hierarchies are axiomatically serving that Will since they are God sub-dividing His Unity into spheres of activity and Being. The angels do not need free will, since their delight is to serve God. Mankind alone, that great concourse of droplets of Being, has been given free will and has taken over the gravity field of earth in which to be trained in this great responsibility Man is the great experiment of the Gods, for it is only through experience of separation from the spiritual worlds and from God's Will that we can develop to real freedom. Hence the power and truth of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We descend so deeply into matter and the gratification of the desires of self that we reach the point of feeding on the husks of the swine. Then we 'come to ourselves' ( awakening to the reality of our Higher Self ) and say "I Will go back to my Father". Of course He welcomes this willed return with joy, for each of us is potentially a companion and co-creator with God.
Man has been called the Tenth Hierarchy. Whether incarnate on earth or sojourning in the eternal between lives we are all bearers of self consciousness and free will. Whether we make the grade or are dragged down by the greed of our lower self into meaninglessness is the ultimate decision of each of us.
We see the long evolution of man as the great adventure into higher consciousness. The present epoch is the time when the greatest step forward can be achieved. Man is called on to take
No wonder that the spiritual worlds appear to be deeply interested and concerned about the immediate future of the planet. If we by our folly really damage the precious web of life on Earth then the whole spiritual organism of the Solar System will suffer. It is touch and go whether enough men awaken to their spiritual responsibility and potential before human avarice and ignorance brings catastrophe.
Indeed much apparent outward catastrophe is now inevitable if that which is meaningless is to be sloughed off. The meaningless is dead and we must reject the corpses and the husks of the past Yet we know that there is no death without rebirth. The two processes are inseparable and a new spring now floods into human consciousness, bringing harmony and light and rejecting what is inharmonious and dark. As the personal instruments for this channelling of light each of us is playing our part in the greatest saga which ever took place in human history. We watch and we take part in the birth of a New Age, a great operation of Redemption to restore meaning to life and re-establish the broken link of our communion with the beautiful worlds of Creative spirit to which we really belong.
As we enter the changes of the New Age we shall find that all answers come from an understanding of the spiritual nature of man. This is the essence of the recovery of lost knowledge The universe is spiritual in nature and man in his essential being is part of the great Oneness. His problem, as a being of self consciousness and free will is the re-aligning or re-attuning with the whole. His extravagant wasteful and meaningless activity directly arises from his sense of separation, which puts him out of touch with the living spiritual worlds so that he comes to feel that the earth is just dead mineral and is his for the exploitation. Incidentally the word extravagant means 'wandering apart' as when Hamlet's ghost says "the extravagant and erring spirit hies to his confine". All sin is sundering, a cutting off from the Whole. Once he recovers the lost knowledge of his own imperishable spiritual being and realises his responsibility to the whole, a new range of conduct will result. He will strive again for meaningful action.
We now enter an age of change and tribulation. The present breakdown is the direct result of man's wasteful and meaningless activities (ie. activities unrelated to the serving of the meaningful whole ).There will be enough for all if we learn to waste no time, no food, no energy, no words By cutting out the wasteful and the meaningless we realign with the whole of which we are integrally part. Supposed wants would be abandoned and that which is dead and past, jettisoned It seems then axiomatic that the need of the moment would be met. There must always be enough to meet the real need, but there emphatically will not be enough for extravagant want. We must learn now to prune drastically. Economy is the key-note but on every aspect of living. Yet paradoxically it appears that for those who really are asking 'in His Name' for needs to be met there can be abundance. In God is abundance but God plays the game of brinkmanship and allows no hoarding. When it is required and not a moment before, energy is released to meet the need. In this context we see that money rightly used represents spiritual energy. Here is hidden the secret of manifestation.
What steps do we take for recovery of meaning? To cut out what is meaningless in our lives involves a change in character. Rudolf Steiner has said that the great esoteric law of development is: for every step into higher knowledge take three steps in development of character. Interestingly our quest for meaning seems to link us directly with Buddha's Eightfold Path. This is natural enough, for the great truths are timeless. Thus Steiner in his remarkable and basic little book 'Knowledge of the Higher Worlds' describes the same eight functions or attributes of the soul which must be mastered if the throat chakra, the so-called sixteen-petalled lotus, is to become active. It is this that opens the pupil to clairvoyant vision. When we consider these attributes they appear quite logically to show us the stages for recovery of meaning.
1. Right Thought. We must think ourselves again into time relationship with the Whole in the moment to moment emergence of the future into the present. We must learn to see what is meaningless in our activity.
2. Right Resolution. We must develop the 'will to meaning', taking over conscious direction and control of the self.
3. Right Speech. Recognise how much psychic energy is wasted in meaningless words. We can watch ourselves, to cut out idle chatter. This does not mean austere cutting off from companionship, but a control of a wasteful expenditure of energy in unnecessary speech.
4. Right Action. We can strive that what we do at each moment shall be meaningful, fulfilling the need of the immediate situation. Then, since we know that the Living Oneness of Being is being precipitated into form each moment, we may know that the energy supply is infinite and all needs will be met.
5.Right Livelihood. We must survey the pattern of the activity on which our livelihood depends and see how far it conforms with meaningful activity. We are consciously thinking ourselves into service of the Whole, and we may know that such are the forces now being released into our lives from this Whole, that extravagant and meaningless activities will be swept away in the coming storm.
6. Right Endeavour. This involves striving to achieve what the Buddha called 'harmlessness'. In our violent society we condone and even practise things which hurt life. Our very survival as a society turns on our personally achieving new values which cut out the cruel and the wasteful on all levels.
7. Right Attention or Recollectedness. This attribute as Steiner describes it involves our learning to stand outside ourselves and survey our life's pattern, and also to try to learn all we can from life, the great teacher. It is only our illusion that events seem to follow each other in meaningless chance. We now recognise that life on earth is the greatest training ground and we are being meaningfully led through events and experiences as soul trials and ordeals.
8. Right Contemplation. The Buddha described this as the Rapture. This phase implies the experience of the greatest of all joys when the soul truly blends with the living ocean of Meaning and Being from which it came and to which it in its very nature belongs.
In the coming epoch man is called upon to work upon his emotional nature, his 'astral body' so as to bring into this chaotic and volatile area something of the harmony and order of natural law The he begins to bring to birth a new and higher self or faculty in his being. This is called the Spirit Self. This earth has been called the Planet of Wisdom; Right endeavour on Man's part will turn it into the Planet of Love, and meaning will be restored to life.
There is surely no joy like being possessed by creative purpose and action. This is known to the mountaineer or skier when every faculty is heightened in adventure, by the musician or actor in performance, by the craftsman completing some critical process which is the culmination of days of preparatory work. In all creation comes at times the sense of giving the entire being to the service of some end far greater than ourselves. In the moments of exaltation we are lifted into the meaning of the whole and are filled with energy. The pause for sleep and food merely serves to keep body and soul in action. As in the individual, so in the group soul of a nation, when the sense of great purpose calls for total sacrifice. An example is the energy released in the French Revolution when an untrained citizen army stood against the combined Grand armies of Imperial Europe and threw them back, or when the dispirited French Army was led by Joan against the English at Orleans.
Enthusiasm - the word in its Greek origin means 'possessed by a god'. How precious an experience, bringing colour and zest and creativity into a life at a time when many are bored and cynical and have an overshadowing sense of lack of meaning.
It is, of course, all too true that much purposeful drive is by no means to be identified with 'will to meaning' in the sense used by Matchett and Frankl. Yeats indicates this in his lines
But the ultimate truth and goal is surely summarised in two verses in St John's Gospel ( Chapter 15, verses 4 & 5 )
To close, here is the quintessence of this thought in T E Brown's little poem, 'The Shell':
HOW DO I INCREASE MEANING SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE PLACE WHERE I HAPPEN TO BE?
© Copyright: Wrekin Trust - January 1975