Color Me Bright
When the birds of the world were first created, all were colored dull brown. They carried a tune nicely, but were not much to look at.
The drab complexions of the birds disturbed Lion, king of all animals. Calling before him a peacock, Lion commissioned him to paint the birds of the world bright colors. The peacock was flattered by this command, but stammered,
“Your Highness, I know nothing of painting.” “Well, learn!” roared Lion.
So the peacock learned. He journeyed down to the riverbank and began dabbling in the muds and clays along the water’s edge. He mixed yellow and blue and compared it with the moss on the bank. He learned to thin his colors with water for smoother application. He developed a secret way of adding luster to his colors, so they would shine.
Finally, after much experimentation, he had perfected a technique. Under the authority of Lion, he summoned the birds of the world one by one, to paint their feathers.
He started simply, coloring the raven black, the cardinal red. As he gained confidence, he became more creative, giving the flicker black speckles on a white breast, with bold yellow wings, and creating a delicate show of miniature brilliance for the hummingbirds. By the time the peacock began working on the tropical birds, he had matured into a master artist.
When his task was completed, the peacock returned to the king. “Sire,” he said, “your request has been fulfilled. All the birds have been colored.”
“I have seen your work,” replied Lion, “and it is very good. But you overlooked one bird.”
“Which?” inquired the peacock.
“Yourself,” the king responded. And, indeed, the peacock looked as drab as ever.
“Not true, not true,” the peacock protested. “I finished myself just this morning.” And spreading open his tail feathers, he revealed a subtlety of iridescence, an elegance of design far surpassing his earlier efforts.
“Self-portraits,” the bird observed as he promenaded before his liege, “usually tend to be the artist’s best work.”
A New Identity
We do not come into the world just to reflect the light of the Higher Self and worship God, even though these practices are a step in the right direction.
Nor do we come into the world merely to repair and restore our thoughts, feelings, and behavior, even though this work is a second step toward spiritual maturity.
Like the peacock, we have been commissioned by our liege, the Higher Self, to perform creative service. We have been commanded to add color and light to everything in our character and life which is drab and dull.
Yet we do not know how. The Higher Self replies: “Well, learn!”
And so, we embark on a journey of creative self-discovery. Our goal on this journey is to learn how to embrace the fullness of the life of our Higher Self and translate it into our habits, attitudes, good works, and daily activities.
In this process, they are enriched and embodied with meaning and purpose. This is a long journey, but each step along the way is significant and fulfilling. Actually, the journey is never ending.
We succeed in this objective by progressing steadily toward a more and more complete understanding of:
- our individuality
- our roots of our common bond with our fellow humans
- our relationship with God
- and the service we can perform.
We succeed by integrating ourself with the intelligence, purpose, love, talents, and strength of the Higher Self, and the divine life it serves.
In a very real sense, this is a journey to a full realization of our human identity.
We do not discover this identity by imitating the style, thoughts, and attitudes of those about us. We ascertain what it is by teaching ourself how to think, feel, and act as our Higher Self would have us do. In the words of an ancient saying, “We must love what God loves, know what God knows, and do what God would seek to do with and through us.”
Gradually, we transform the focus and capacity of our consciousness.
We become an artist of life, not just an observer; A builder of life, not just a survivor;
A contributor to life, not just a consumer;
A healer of life, not just one who seeks for something better.
In human life, of course, we are commissioned to do more than merely paint our “feathers” lovely colors. We are given the task of developing a full range of self-expression through the personality, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Then, as this full complement of skills, qualities, habits, and characteristics is developed, we are meant to take them, one by one, and attune them to the power and purpose of the Higher Self, so that each of them reveals the glory of its divine origin through its expression on earth.
To put it symbolically, we gather to ourself the many components of our personality, lift them up to heaven, and give them a new name, a sacred name.
In this way, we create a new identity for ourself, an identity which reveals the love, wisdom, and power of the Higher Self through all we do. This work occurs within the recesses of our own heart and mind, unnoticed by the world, but it is the greatest masterpiece of all, our own self-portrait.
Fortunately, the spiritual ideals of life are all active and alive at the inner dimensions of the Higher Self. We do not have to create them.
However, they can only become active and alive within the personality as we become their creative agent. Our work is to infuse these ideals into our character as vital parts of our individuality, identity, and self- expression.
Creativity is the key to this step. We must learn to translate the beauty, harmony, and glory of the inner realms of life into tangible forms of expression on earth.
We must learn to “breathe” the energies and forces of divine life into the forms we create, so that they endure and inspire. We must learn to use the divine archetypes of the Higher Self as blueprints for our activity on earth.
This work of creativity is the culminating triumph of Active Meditation, the heart and fiber of the Western tradition of spiritual growth.
It is creativity which activates the full potential of our mind, nurtures the higher expressions of compassion and love, vivifies our inner genius, and motivates us to harness our self-expression for spiritual service.
Without creativity, life is a colorless monotony of unchanging dullness and the boring repetition of what already exists.
Genuine creativity, however, enables new life to constantly enter our mind and heart, enriching our spiritual stature and accomplishments. As a consequence, we experience a more abundant life and fulfill the promise of human individuality.
We complete the work begun when the Higher Self first decided to enter into earth life and develop the personality.
A Healthy Balance
Creativity is an important theme in human life, both individually and collectively. Everywhere we look, we can find the evidence of the use of creativity by humanity to meet its needs, expand its self-expression, and discover its unique identity among the many kingdoms of life.
In order to meet the needs of better housing, food, clothing, and health, we have taught ourselves to be innovative in science, technology, agriculture, and medicine.
In probing the nature of our self-expression, we have taught ourselves to be creative in the arts, literature, drama, music, and dance.
In order to define and enrich our unique identity, we have taught ourselves to explore the realms of religion, philosophy, psychology, and the esoteric sciences.
All of this activity has enriched the experience of society and the individual, both at inner and outer levels. Any intelligent observer of life, however, can also see that the development of creativity in humanity has not been a straight line to paradise.
Wherever there is creativity, resistance to change can also be found. And so, even though enormous progress has been made in developing the creative spirit of humanity, much remains to be done.
Many obstacles and difficulties yet remain to be overcome.
Actually, resistance to change is a necessary part of the phenomenon of creativity. The traditions and habits of society can sometimes be antagonistic to our drive to be innovative. This antagonism is not a totally regressive move, however.
When we respect our traditions, we are also working to preserve and protect the accomplishments we have already made. Without this force of preservation, we might well become entirely experimental in orientation, and be unable to stabilize our innovative works.
For a society to be alive, therefore, it must be creative. But for a society to be stable, it must also have a rich accumulation of tradition and custom.
Ideally, the two forces work together in healthy balance, exploring new applications of the creative spirit while maintaining and protecting the good works already achieved.
The same pattern applies to the individual as well as society.
It is the force of creativity which helps the individual grow and become more fully aware of his purpose and potential. But creativity must also be blended with a rich awareness of tradition, experience, and habit. If not, we are likely to be confused, indecisive, and disorganized.
To maintain health and balance as an individual, we need a blend of both creativity and the capacity to protect and preserve what we have achieved. Out of the interaction of these two forces, a true sense of our identity as an individual can slowly emerge.
Another way of stating this basic premise is to say that our identity is derived both from the life of spirit and the life of the personality.
The person who is grounded entirely in the life of the personality has not yet discovered his true identity, but neither is the person who has abandoned the personality in the hopes of becoming absorbed in the bliss of spirit.
The Higher Self has created the personality for a good reason. If we are to uncover the mystery of our life, we had therefore better learn to view the personality creatively and as a part of the spiritual experience.
This is simply a matter of common sense.
A Creative Agent
The work of successful meditation should include exercises designed to balance the creative and the conserving elements within our character, and nurture a creative view of self-discovery.
Such exercises should help us to:
- Stir up our creative resources and talents.
- Integrate them with our habits, traditions, and established views of life, thereby stabilizing our creative talents.
- Participate in the work of “lifting up” the personality into the wholeness inherent in the Higher Self, thereby transforming the quality and significance of our life.
As we use meditative skills in this way, we gradually discover, through first-hand experience, what it means to become a creative agent of divine forces. We strip this subject of all of its mystical and mythical mushiness, and see it in the clear light of common sense.
We are designed to serve as a steward and builder of the divine plan for humanity. Before this is possible, we must purify the personality and purge it of unwholesome elements. We must likewise reorient our priorities in living so that we consider the needs of the Higher Self first, and the needs of the personality second.
In specific, there are several basic themes we should explore in meditation, as we endeavor to discover our creative potential and true identity:
- The proper function of the personality in physical life.
- Our opportunities for service to the Higher Self and the rest of humanity.
- Our opportunities for developing character strengths and abilities so that we may serve more wisely.
- Our responsibility to the Higher Self, to others, to our work, and to society.
- The enlightened response to imperfection in the world.
- The enlightened response to public opinion and the customs and pressures of mass consciousness.
- The role we can play in civilization and culture.
Each of these themes is a rich topic for our own meditative self- discovery.
The Proper Function Of The Personality
There are two basic forces which can control the functioning of the personality. The first is the innate life of the personality itself. The second is the design of the Higher Self for the enlightened self- expression of the personality.
The vast majority of people are controlled by the innate life of the personality – the fears, desires, craving for sensation, and instincts of the physical body, emotions, and mind.
This innate life is conditioned by childhood experiences involving parents and peers, the groups we associate with, mass consciousness, and by various unconscious and astrological forces. All of these factors are affected by subtle influences of the law of attraction working at a level not yet appreciated by modern psychology,
From an esoteric perspective, there is little difference between two people controlled by the innate life of the personality, even though the two people in question might well consider themselves profoundly different. Individuals under the influence of this innate life have little individuality and only a weak sense of identity. Without recognizing their true status, they are basically slaves to instinct, sensation, and social conditioning.
Only those who can detach from the instincts and sensations of the innate life can become responsive to the Higher Self.
Then the personality can be guided by the design of the Higher Self for enlightened self-expression. This design is an inspired blueprint for ideal thought, feeling, and behavior in every aspect of personal life. It is the true source of our individuality and identity.
The personality can only function properly when it is controlled and guided by the design of the Higher Self.
It is therefore of great importance to discriminate between this creative design and the innate life of the personality. It is also quite helpful to understand exactly how the design of the Higher Self activates and guides the functioning of the personality.
The design of the Higher Self for the self-expression of the personality is a fifth-dimensional idea. At the level of the fifth dimension (the abstract mind), ideas include not only intelligence but also the full power to reproduce the idea at concrete levels.
The power of the innate life is little more than the power to sense and react.
The power of the design of the Higher Self for the personality, in contrast, is the power to act, create, build, and heal.
This does not mean that as soon as we tap the design of the Higher Self for the personality, we can sit back and let the Higher Self run our life without any effort on our part. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In order for the personality to tap into this design of the Higher Self, it must become a creative partner of the Higher Self. This requires that it is fully involved in being the channel through which the Higher Self works and operates. Then, miracles begin to happen.
In many ways, the design of the Higher Self for the personality is so different from the prevalent norm for behavior that it may seem strange at first. Indeed, many people struggle for quite a while before they learn to view life from the perspective of the Higher Self.
The reason why is simple. The average person, and society itself, is imbued with rampant selfishness, hedonism, competitiveness, greed, and materialism. Because of this pollution, almost all of our values and goals must be laundered and reconsidered before we can begin to understand the ideals and purposes that motivate the Higher Self.
Our Opportunities To Serve
If we intend to serve the Higher Self, we must be cautious about accepting society’s opinion as to what constitutes service. This would likely be a path to self-deception. Instead, we must strive to understand what the Higher Self views as progress and service.
Much of what we term “service” to humanity and society today is tinged with large measures of projections of self-pity, guilt, the desire for attention, and even greed. The person who unthinkingly accepts these premises will be serving only the illusions of society, not the purposes of the Higher Self. It is therefore important to become fully aware of the criteria of the Higher Self for service.
The Higher Self defines service as any act which contributes to and helps advance the evolutionary plan of God for humanity and society. It has little if any interest in providing for the pleasure, comfort, or freedom from conflict of the personality.
This does not rule out a comfortable life, family, career, or rest and relaxation for the personality, but our Higher Self will be concerned about our priorities for these factors.
In addition, the Higher Self will want us to follow divine law and not seek to reap where we have not sown (take without earning what we want).
Our Opportunities To Grow
Not everything that the personality would prize as a step toward maturity or success is viewed as growth by the Higher Self. Indeed, society has accepted a number of “ideals” for personal self-expression which are either useless or a hindrance to the life of the Higher Self:
- the ability to manipulate the opinions of others
- a competitive spirit that will sacrifice anything to win
- a capacity to suppress guilt and shame
- a preoccupation with being charming or glamorous
- personal toughness.
At the same time, society commonly regards a number of spiritual virtues as signs of weakness – sensitivity, kindness, a sense of ethics, tolerance, and the willingness to share and cooperate.
Those who set their goals for growth by the standards of society may be greatly distorting the meaning and purpose of growth. The likely result of this direction is greater immaturity, not maturity.
For this reason, it is important for the true aspirant to use the time of meditation to become aware of how the Higher Self views the process of growth, and set his or her priorities accordingly.
The Higher Self is responsive to the divine plan and the laws of universal life. It expects the personality to likewise be responsive to those activities which advance these plans and embody these laws.
In daily living, this means we have two key obligations.
First, recognize our responsibilities about family, work, nation, and society.
Second, act to fulfill them as wisely and energetically as possible.
It is unfortunate that various religious and philosophical systems have distorted the value of responsibility by encouraging their devotees to turn over their individual responsibilities to God. This is done in order to make it easier to focus one’s full efforts on becoming absorbed in the transcendent nature of God.
The inevitable consequence of this, however, is a weakening of the enlightened sense of responsibility. The devotees of these systems become more passive toward life, not more active. As a result, they become less of a constructive force for good in the world.
It can therefore be quite helpful to examine meditatively the perspective of the Higher Self about two major issues.
The first is the actual nature of our responsibilities to life.
The second is to determine what it means to nurture growth and the enlightenment of family, friends, nation, and society.
An Enlightened Response To Imperfection
Everyone who would serve the life of the Higher Self must eventually come to terms with the imperfections of society. We do not live in “the best of all possible worlds,” and it can be a rude awakening when an idealistic person discovers this obvious fact.
Some people respond to this discovery by abandoning their ideals and becoming cynical. The more popular response is to become disgusted and resentful. Our modern society has developed a whole panoply of justifications for “the constructive use of anger” and the “creative use of rage.”
The enlightened person, however, knows that these are nothing but infantile responses to childish problems.
The Higher Self is totally free of anger, fear, jealousy, ignorance, and possessiveness. It responds to imperfection by trying to heal it.
If we are seeking to improve our rapport with the Higher Self, we should strive to do the same. The clever manipulation of fear, hostility, anger, or jealousy will never be supported by the Higher Self, no matter how noble our ultimate goal might be.
This is not to say that the feelings of anger, fear, or jealousy will never arise in people who enjoy good working relationships with their Higher Self. But when they do, they will be recognized as reactions arising from the unredeemed aspects of the personality, or mass consciousness.
The enlightened person will endeavor to control these impulses and heal the patterns which produced them.
The great strength of the Higher Self lies in its capacity to be cheerful, optimistic, forgiving, and affectionate, even in the face of imperfection, opposition, or resistance. The enlightened personality learns to call on these inner strengths in dealing with the problems and frustrations of living.
We need to be mindful that none of us came to earth for the purpose of protesting, complaining, or being obnoxious. We came in order to help heal the problems of society and create a better life on earth.
An Enlightened Response To Mass Consciousness
One of the most subtle challenges confronting the meditator is learning to distinguish among impulses arising from three common sources:
Our own subconscious, Mass consciousness, and
The legitimate guidance of the Higher Self.
The distinction between impulses from the subconscious and the guidance of the Higher Self can be mastered by using the techniques of mental housecleaning and healing the emotions. The difference between impulses from mass consciousness and the Higher Self is not so readily discerned.
The pressure to conform can be enormous. Quite often, the voice of mass consciousness speaks with far greater authority than the quiet whisper of the Higher Self.
Complicating the problem even more is the common practice of religious and spiritual leaders of demanding obedience from their devotees.
Once we become accustomed to conforming to a group mind, it becomes quite difficult to distinguish between the authority of mass consciousness and the authority of the Higher Self.
And yet, if we are going to discover our true identity, and become a creative force in the world, we must learn to make this distinction. We must learn to recognize the subtle urges and pressures which come to us psychically from mass consciousness and become responsive only to the guidance and motivation of the Higher Self.
The Role We Can Play In Civilization
As we explore these fundamental themes meditatively, we become more aware of the true nature of our human identity.
This leads us to understand more about the important role we have to play in the unfoldment of society and civilization.
Like the individual, society as a whole is evolving and progressing.
There are many imperfections in society, just as there are traces of many imperfections within most of us individually – pettiness, selfishness, avarice, fear, and laziness.
Society does not understand the nature of its identity or inner potential any more than most individuals do. It often fails to see the benefits of changes and innovative trends until long after they have been established.
And yet, looking at society from the perspective of the Higher Self, we begin to see where vitality and creativity are alive and active, and how we can help. We begin to understand how the Higher Self seeks to help the development of society as well as our role in being a catalyst for constructive change.
This prepares us for an active life of service.
By contemplating these issues and themes in a meditative state, we set the stage for the personality to be lifted up, briefly, into the light and wisdom of the Higher Self. During these times, there may be flashes of spiritual intuition and an experiencing of the actual qualities of the wisdom, love, and will of the Higher Self.
While these moments of direct contact with the Higher Self may be few at first, eventually we will develop an understanding of how the Higher Self views aspects of our life, identity, or efforts to be creative. Much of our work will be to sort out the various new and old beliefs we already hold on these topics.
With time and repeated practice, we will slowly establish beyond all doubt the genuine perspective and attitude of the Higher Self toward life.
At this point, our understanding of the Higher Self will be something more than just another opinion. It will be a dynamic basis and stage for our creative involvement in living.
The recommended meditative exercise for exploring these themes of self-discovery begins, as customary, by establishing contact with the Higher Self, as described in chapter five. The Higher Self is the fount of our wisdom, love, and strength, and it must always be the central focus of our meditative efforts.
Once this meditative contact is reestablished, the next step is to refine the quality of this contact a bit more than is usually required. This can be done by practicing devotion to the ideals of the Higher Self.
We review several of the key spiritual ideals of the Higher Self and let our adoration and love for the value of these ideals build in magnitude.
In this way, we rise above the “ideals” of the personality, which are often self-serving and colored by mass consciousness and social prejudice.
To this devotion we can then add a steady dedication to the life and purpose of the Higher Self.
This step will help to connect our mind and personal will with the wisdom and will-to-life of the Higher Self. Our dedication will link our intention to work with the wisdom and will of the Higher Self in the contributions we make to society. As such, it is something more than devotion or mere positive thinking. It is a commitment to understand and to act in accordance with the authority of the Higher Self.
At this point, we begin the actual activity of creative self-discovery, investigating one of the themes described earlier or a related topic.
There are several meditative skills we can use to help us in this process:
Working with spiritual ideals. In reviewing an area of responsibility we have, we can invoke a clear understanding of the spiritual ideals which ought to guide us. We do this by asking the Higher Self directly, “What is your attitude and viewpoint regarding this issue?”
If our devotion is strong and our intention is clear, then we are bound to experience some measure of its perspective about this aspect of our life. Usually, the response will be more of the nature of a direct experience of the quality of the ideal, rather than images we see or words we hear mentally.
Personification. In contemplating the nature of our true identity, it can be helpful to personify this true identity as a benevolent saint who has chosen to return to earth and live in our personality and serve humanity. As we view our life, opportunities, problems, and challenges through the perspective of this benevolent saint, we begin to grasp elements of our true identity and the quality of consciousness of the Higher Self.
Role playing. In working to better understand the contribution we can make to society, we can play the role of an assistant to a great spiritual leader, who assigns us a task to complete. This task is something which can be completed within the parameters of our life experience, but will challenge our ingenuity and resourcefulness.
We may well have to develop new qualities and expressions of love, patience, or wisdom to be successful. But as we complete the task, we will be making a contribution to society.
Working with divine archetypes. In reviewing our enlightened response to imperfection, it can be quite helpful to work with the appropriate archetype which governs this facet of human expression. Guided by the archetype, we can more readily see what is lacking and how best it can be corrected.
Seed thoughts. Much insight into the nature of our identity and creative potential can be derived by meditating on seed thoughts such as “self-realization,” “the life of service,” “opportunities to serve,” “the enlightenment of the personality,” or “the greater takes care of the lesser.”
Once this reflection on our identity and creative potential is completed, it is then important to conclude the meditation by honoring the insights and power gained.
This portion of the technique is designed to increase and activate a strong sense of personal honor, so that we will be more motivated to take the good we have gained and put it to work in our life. Personal honor focuses a steady intention to aspire to the best within us at all times, and never do less than our best. It holds open a steady line of force between the Higher Self and the personality, so that the creative view we have attained can be sustained during our non-meditative activities.
Personal honor can be cultivated by the skillful use of the symbol of a transparent, golden jewel carved in the perfect image of our likeness.
We should visualize this jewel as representing the pure life, will, wisdom, and love of the Higher Self, and imagine it superimposed over the heart.
As we work with this jewel, we should come to view it as our most precious possession, a possession of great value and beauty. Because it is such a marvelous treasure, it commands our deepest respect and honor. Indeed, serving it and helping it become more brilliant and filled with life becomes a question of personal honor for us.
Throughout the use of this technique for creative self-discovery, it is important to keep in mind that the Higher Self truly is interested in helping us cultivate this more enlightened perspective on life.
At the same time, there is a part of our personality which is capable of distracting us from our goal and confusing these new insights with doubt and skepticism.
Our duty is to keep our devotion and dedication clearly focused on a more enlightened understanding of the role we play in life. As distractions and confusion arise, we should refer back to the techniques for mental housecleaning and use them as appropriate.
The Technique For Creative Self-Discovery
The technique for creative self-discovery can be summarized as follows:
- We begin by entering a meditative state and contacting the Higher Self, as described in chapter five.
- We build devotion to the ideals of the Higher Self.
- To this devotion, we add dedication to the life and purpose of the Higher Self.
- We investigate the nature of our creative potential and the way the Higher Self views our work, our responsibilities, and the contributions we can make to life. In pursuing this understanding, there are several meditative skills which can be helpful: spiritual ideals, personification, role playing, divine archetypes, and seed thoughts.
- We conclude by honoring the insights and new perspectives gained, making it a matter of personal honor to incorporate this life of the Higher Self into our daily self-expression. This activity can be helped through the use of the symbol of a golden jewel.