REDWOOD trees live in families. “They have very shallow roots, but redwood trees are connected to each other through their root system” says pioneer nature defender Julia Butterfly Hill.
“When you see a group of redwood trees, often they are all part of the same roots, and they feed one another that way.”
Similarly we are each connected not only to many others, but also to ourselves, a kind of multimedia group of former lives and personalities. We ordinary humans are paradoxical and often revealing our hidden genius.
Like the soaring music of Mozart to the fearless passion of a Julia Butterfly Hill we each live out a destiny created by ourselves over many lifetimes. That’s our personal family group, and we all know each other, though most may not remember many selves on a conscious level.
Most of us lack a Seer’s knowing, and are forced to trudge for clues into the far horizons of reincarnation, and sift the karmic sands of countless past lives to uncover the source of our collective manifest talents, failures and successes.
Teilhard de Chardin’s idea that we are “spiritual beings immersed in a human experience,” only begins to explain the genius of a Mozart who composed musical score at the age of three. Or why Julia Butterfly Hill, at twenty-four, would choose to spend a dangerous two years alone, 200 feet atop a thousand year-old redwood tree, to save it from destruction by a company of determined, clear-cutting loggers.
Read more of Julia’s compelling story here.
Just like Amadeus and Julia, every one of us is born with a destiny and an individual soul identity, bringing intelligence and experience from former lives. To a greater or lesser degree we remember and act out the memory of them. Memory can develop slowly or quickly, or often, has little opportunity to emerge. All depends upon our karmic circumstances, merit and demerit. Yet beneath it all remains the unshakeable awareness of an “I am I” consciousness. We are ourselves and none other, whether we remember all the details or not.
Find Your Purpose
“Each and every one of us is more powerful than we could ever imagine. We are so often just a thought away from having a magical life beyond belief. We are each ancestors of the future, contributing to the vitality and well-being of all those with whom we share this beautiful, Sacred life. What do we want our Legacy to be? What’s Your Tree helps us create the answer to that question.”
– Julia Butterfly Hill
It can be thought of as our eternal reincarnating soul that hovers hawk-like, silent and all-seeing above the personality, the Salton Sea of each new birth and personal destiny. Writing about this destiny in Letters That Have Helped Me, No. 2, William Q. Judge wrote:
“Inasmuch as we learn almost solely from each other — as we are all here for each other — the question of the effect of affinities upon our acts and thoughts is enormous and wide. It anon saves us, and anon damns. For we may meet in our lives a person who has a remarkable effect, either for good or ill, because of the affinities engendered in past lives.”
That reflection may be thought of as the temporary substance of our invisible astral and visible physical being (i.e. esp. the brain, heart and gut) which act as receptors or conduits of consciousness and intelligence in one life. This “physical basis” is one of several universal principles established in the fundamental propositions of The Secret Doctrine:
It is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as “I am I,” a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity.
Trauma patients with memory loss, for example, are convinced of their “I” egoity, even if they don’t remember exactly who they are. Amnesiacs may forget their own name, family, email, and favorite movie — nonetheless this “sum total” of consciousness persists.
“The real person or thing does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment,” The Secret Doctrine (1:37) explains, “but is composed of the sum of all its various and changing conditions from its appearance in the material form to its disappearance from the earth. It is these ‘sum-totals’ that exist from eternity in the ‘future,’ and pass by degrees through matter, to exist for eternity in the ‘past.'”
The Next Mozart?
Six-year old Emily Bear has wowed audiences from the White House to her own house. Playing the piano since age 3, Emily also composes her own music. Has WGN-TV discovered the next Mozart?
What’s in a Name?
“The name is nothing,” says W. Q. Judge, “It is given to you by your parents, just as much without your personal consent as is your body.” The worldly person you have forgotten is now your defunct personality, but the tendencies, lessons and karma of that life persist, and follow us into the next life. A complex but necessary relationship exists between the Immortal Ego of every person, and their karma.
In Theosophy these tendencies are described by the Sanskrit word ‘skandha.’ “Karma, with its army of Skandhas, waits at the threshold of Devachan [heaven],” Blavatsky explains in The Key to Theosophy, “whence the Ego re-emerges to assume a new incarnation. . . . They [the skandhas] remain as Karmic effects, as germs, hanging in the atmosphere of the terrestrial plane, ready to come to life … to attach themselves to the new personality of the Ego when it reincarnates.”
In every rebirth, therefore, we are re-connected to our personal web. The lessons (karma) of this web should be thought of as ongoing opportunities — steps gradually leading to a growing self-awareness, and enlightenment over many lifetimes in the company of many others.
Body of Work
A musician needs his instrument, a painter her canvas. This is explained in the first Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine:
“…it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as ‘I am I,’ a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity.”
A physical brain and body are required to complete our human experience. The invisible “zeros and ones” of a computer program, for example, must be connected to a hard drive or they can’t be read or used.
The Inner Buddha
Like the youthful Prince Siddhārtha, in the beginning our genius lurks undiscovered and unexpressed. In Swedish artist Marianna Rydvlad’s painting below, we see the Prince symbolically meditating under the Bo tree, to achieve enlightenment and liberation.
He is pictured calmly holding intruders at bay
with a spiritual force-field.
These creatures would do harm and disturb his concentration if a weak spot in the field allowed them entry. Any mental or moral weakness corresponding to one of those demons is sufficient — any thought or feeling of pride, greed, envy, lust, for example, could weaken the field.
“It is impossible to employ spiritual forces if there is the slightest tinge of selfishness remaining in the operator,” Blavatsky writes in Practical Occultism.
“For, unless the intention is entirely unalloyed, the spiritual will transform itself into the psychic, act on the astral plane, and dire results may be produced by it.”
These hindrances are called “modifications of the thinking principle” in the Yoga Aphorisms of the Indian sage Patanjali. Successful concentration, or Yoga, Patanjali calls “hindering” these disturbances.
To the ordinary passer-by, Siddhārtha could have been a homeless person asleep. In one sense this might have been correct — he was searching for his home.
Under the Bo tree, with its heart-shaped leaves, Siddhārtha was challenged by a host of distracting temptations, just as we are every day. But he was determined to do something about it — to awaken his inner Buddha. Siddhārtha’s example emphasizes the importance of regular meditation. Where self-examination is concerned, we paraphrase Pierre Beaumarchais’ famous saying about love:
“even too much is not enough.”
Consciousness of Oneness
Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, PhD tells us about his own change of orientation from the individual to the collective. Llewellyn explains how his “attention shifted” from an earlier emphasis on the classical mystical process of realizing oneness to the collective transition toward a global consciousness of oneness.
thou art Buddha”
The distractions of our social, work-a-day worlds, can nudge our Buddha into the background, and difficult times may lead us to desperation. As the familiar saying goes, we find ourselves “hanging by a thread.”
But this is only our worldly tapestry, woven by memory threads of our personal brain-mind, and ruled by our turbulent senses — creating an often perplexing tug-of-war.
In each life, there are many threads from which we may choose to hang. These add up to what Theosophy refers to as the “lifetime meditation.“
Ashok Gangadean has taught philosophy at Haverford College for 38 years, and co-chair of the World Wisdom Council. He says we do not have the luxury of communicating with each other through our own narrow filters anymore, if we going to turn around the degradation of our planet.
Warp and Woof
Even Buddha, like all human Masters, was once like us. Siddhārtha’s determination to defeat his weaknesses, get to the bottom of suffering, and awaken his inner Buddha, is best exemplified in The Dhammapada, Ch. 11, (153-154), translated from the Devanagari:
“Many a House of life Hath held me, seeking ever him who wrought these prisons of the senses, sorrow-fraught, sore was my ceaseless strife!”
What the world sees is only a small part of our total soul fabric. We are challenged to become “all that total of a soul”—a phrase used by poet Sir Edwin Arnold, in The Light of Asia, where he describes Siddhārtha’s enlightenment:
“The Karma – all that total of a soul, which is the things it did, the thoughts it had, the ‘Self’ it wove with woof of viewless time…
“Crossed on the warp invisible of acts,” Arnold writes, “the outcome of him on the Universe, grows pure and sinless…”
Julia Butterfly Hill
Julia talks about “separation syndrome” linked to our intransigent “disposability consciousness” — we are “throwing our planet and our people away.” We’ve lost our “connection to the sacred,” Julia says. And she warns that unless we make peace with the Earth, there can be no peace with ourselves – they are inseparable.
A study on the importance of focus is found in W. Q. Judge’s article Meditation, Concentration, Will, where he describes “The mysterious subtle thread of a life meditation is that which is practiced every hour by philosopher, mystic, saint, criminal, artist, artisan, and merchant…
“It is pursued in respect to that on which the heart is set; it rarely languishes … every cell and fibre of the body and inner man will be turned in one direction, resulting in perfect concentration.”
“This is expressed in the New Testament in the statement that if the eye is single the whole body will be full of light…
“Savants—individuals with conditions that result in remarkable mathematical, artistic or musical talents are extremely rare,” writes Celeste Biever, in “How to unleash your brain’s inner genius”:
“But new findings about how their formidable brains work hint that we might all be able to develop similar abilities.”
Normally, humans express a fairly wide range of talents. For most, our tendencies, capacities, and sympathies, when not pathological, tend to be fairly average. Our talents seem threadbare, when compared to genius.
Genius is living proof of the preexistence of a spiritual thread soul. The power of the soul’s innumerable life experiences, focused like water through a narrow channel, greatly magnifies its force.
“Genius, therefore, if true and innate, and not merely an abnormal expansion of our human intellect – can never copy or condescend to imitate, but will ever be original, sui generis in its creative impulses and realizations. Like those gigantic Indian lilies that shoot out from the clefts and fissures of the cloud-nursing, and bare rocks on the highest plateaux of the Nilgiri Hills, true Genius needs but an opportunity to spring forth into existence and blossom in the sight of all in the most arid soil, for its stamp is always unmistakable.
“… can never copy or condescend to imitate — but will ever be original, sui generis in its creative impulses and realizations.”
“Even as a child, Alonzo demonstrated the uncanny ability to mold clay into amazingly detailed animal figures he had never even seen,” writes By Darold Treffert, MD, on The Wisconsin Medical Society website.
“It was talent that only a genius could possess. But it was puzzling: Alonzo couldn’t even feed himself or tie his shoes.”
“He was always trying to sculpt things as a child. But I didn’t realize what he was doing. Through it all he was just trying to sculpt,” says Alonzo’s mother, Evelyn Clemons.
Savants, like all geniuses, appear different to us because of their amazing ability to focus tirelessly on specific tasks. Yet, paradoxically, many require support for daily living and working at their jobs.
Blind Tom Wiggins is such a savant. Like Mozart, he must have stepped from one musically trained life, on which his “heart was set,” directly into another.
“The appearance of geniuses and great minds in families destitute of these qualities,” Judge wrote, “can only be met by the law of re-birth.”
Mozart, born into a musical family, composed orchestral score as an infant — a clear proof of reincarnation.
“But stronger yet is the case of Blind Tom,” writes Judge in Arguments Supporting Reincarnation, “who could not by any possibility have a knowledge of the piano, a modern instrument. Yet he had great musical power, and knew the present mechanical musical scale on the piano.”
“We find one man born with great capacity, a great mind that can cover many subjects at once; or a special mind and capacity like that of Mozart. Why was he born so? Where did he get it if not from the character he had in the past? You may say that heredity explains it all.
Then please explain how Blind Tom, who never knew anything about a piano, who never knew anything about music, was able to play upon a mechanically scaled instrument like the piano? It is not a natural thing. Where did he get the capacity? Heredity does not explain that. We explain it by reincarnation. Just so with Mozart, who at four years of age was able to write an orchestral score.”
A Passion for Music
Born a slave in Georgia, Blind Tom died an international celebrity in 1908. He had an encyclopedic memory, all-consuming passion for music and mind boggling capacity to imitate – both verbally and musically – any sound he heard.
His extraordinary savant powers rocketed him to fame and made his name a household word.
Mark Twain called him an “inspired idiot,” who could “play two tunes (on the piano) and sing a third at the same time, and let the audience choose the keys he shall perform in.”
John Davis plays “Rainstorm” by Blind Tom. According to the publisher, Henry Holt, Mark Twain became a Blind Tom fanatic the moment he first cross paths with the pianist on an Illinois train in 1869.
Twain, in fact, would write about this and subsequent brushes with Wiggins in an extended article published that year in an issue of the Alta California newspaper. “The Rainstorm,” was purportedly written when Wiggins was just five years old.
Like a beam of white light, the “thread soul” can be thought of as containing, in potential, all the colors of our numerous experiences, abilities, and character. We are able to spin only a small fraction of its infinite potency in a single life.
That spiritual thread, also called in Sanskrit, “Sutratma,” shines down through the “prism” of human existence, as explained in The Key to Theosophy:
“…that which undergoes periodical incarnation is the Sutratma, which means literally the ‘Thread Soul.’ It is a synonym of the reincarnating Ego which absorbs the mind’s recollections of all our preceding lives.
“It is so called, because,” Blavatsky writes, “like the pearls on a thread, so is the long series of human lives strung together on that one thread.”
Derek was born premature, at 25 weeks, and weighed just over half a kilogram. As a result of the oxygen therapy required to save his life, Derek lost his sight, and his development was affected too.
It later became apparent that he had severe learning difficulties. However, he soon acquired a fascination for music and sound.
By the age of four, Derek had taught himself to play a large number of pieces on the piano, of some melodic and harmonic complexity.
Almost inevitably, with no visual models to guide him, his technique was chaotic, and even his elbows would frequently be pressed into service, as he strove to reach intervals beyond the span of his tiny hands!
Derek only needs to hear a tune once to play it. Adam Ockelford was giving a piano lesson to a young girl at Linden Lodge School for the blind in Wandsworth, south-west London, when a couple and their five-year-old son who were touring the school opened the door to his room.
Moments later, the little blond boy was free of his parents’ grip and sprinted over to the piano. There he pushed Ockelford’s unfortunate pupil roughly off her stool.
“He was obviously manically determined to play, and began karate-chopping the keys, bashing them with his fists and his elbows,” he recalls.
“At first I thought he was completely bonkers,” Ockelford remembered, “but suddenly I realised that not only was he playing ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,’ he was rampaging up and down the keyboard to fit in extra chords and scales.
“Then I knew he was a genius,
not a madman at all.”
Shooting to fame when he set a European record for the number of digits of pi — Daniel recited from memory 22,514. He has also learned Icelandic in a week and made up his own language. How does he do it?
An Unbroken Thread
“…the whole secret of Life is in the unbroken series of its manifestations: whether in, or apart from, the physical body. Because if —
“Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity…”
— yet it is itself part and parcel of that Eternity—for life alone can understand life.