-Persistence and Endurance-

There is a fine correspondence between persistence in effort along a certain line of action on the outer plane and the inner endurance of suffering and personal injustice. Both are tests of the will and aspiration of the disciple and both impart vital lessons to the Theosophist. There is no finer example for the Theosophist of successful persistence and endurance under the heat of trial than that of the life and work of William Q. Judge (WQJ), a co-founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875. There is no more valued teacher of vital lessons for Theosophists.

By the time H.P.B. departed for India in 1878, meetings and organizational activity of the Theosophical Society had almost ceased. The next several years had their particular difficulties for Judge. These difficulties and his response to them are recorded in a passage written by Mrs. Archibald Keightley, which describes the situation when H.P.B. left. “…she, who was then the one great exponent, had left the field, and the curiosity and interest excited by her original striking mission had died down. The T.S. was henceforth to subsist on its philosophical basis, and this after long years of toil and unyielding persistence, was the point attained by Mr. Judge. From his twenty-third year until his death, his best efforts and all the fiery energies of his undaunted soul were given to this work, We have a word picture of him, opening meetings, reading a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, entering the Minutes, and carrying on all the details of the same, as if he were not the only person present; and this he did, time after time, determined to have a society.”

What lesson does this vignette from the life of WQJ provide for the Theosophist, or group of Theosophists, who work for the cause of Theosophy? What does it teach about persistence? Success does not come quickly, but it inevitably comes when the persistence is unyielding to external and internal conditions. There are three indispensible prerequisites to acquiring the power of unyielding persistence that emerge from this example.

First, all the faculties of heart and mind must be concentrated on the task at hand. It must be made the center of one’s existence. All one’s desires must be made servants of this primary interest. One-pointedness will protect the mind from pleasant and unpleasant memories, fears and doubts that weaken determination, dilute commitment and distract one from the performance of duty. Second, a clear image of the end in view must be continuously held in the mind. Unless imagination creates a steady and sharp image, the will cannot bring about the desired result. Third, each and every effort must be made to the best of ones ability indifferent to the successful or unsuccessful results. Personal attachment to the results of action will weaken persistence since concern with failure, criticism, and rejection will breed doubt, resentment, and fear that will freeze further effort; and concern with success, praise, and fame will breed pride, self-regard, and self-satisfaction that will weaken aspiration.

Early in 1884, correspondence between WQJ and friends show he was suffering from despondency; the result of certain influences disturbing his inner well-being. These letters also reveal a definite attitude of endurance of this suffering for as long as necessary. “These last days (12) have been a trial to me. Quite vividly the question of sticking fast or letting go has come up. I believe that I have been left alone to try me. But I have conquered, I will not give up; and no matter what the annoyance or bitterness, I will stand. Last night I opened the Theosophist that Mme. has here, and almost at once came across those articles about chelaship, its trial and dangers. It seemed like a confirmation of my thoughts, and while the picture in one sense was rather dismal, yet they strengthened me…”

What lesson does this letter written by WQJ provide for the Theosophist? What does it teach about endurance? Relief from suffering and personal justice may not come quickly. It may tempt one to give up. It may last for months or years. But, no matter how long it lasts, the willingness to endure for as long as necessary depends on the development of a certain attitude towards the suffering. The attitude that develops unconquerable endurance has two aspects.

First, one cannot ignore or hide from the suffering. It must be accepted for what it is - a painful test or trial of ones personal convictions and self-reliance. The greatest danger is the sense of loneliness that accompanies the suffering, or in some cases there is real physical or social isolation. All this will tempt the individual to feel and think that they are separate from others. The best way to stand up in this crucible and face the melting heat of trial is to realize that the suffering will never diminish, hurt, or destroy the SELF, the enduring “I am I.” The real SELF can only conquer, stand, and endure because it outlasts any temporary state of mind or physical condition. The real SELF can never be alone or isolated because it is one and identical in essence with all other Selves and the SELF OF ALL.

Second, the object of every painful trial is ultimately to teach us something about ourself and nature that we did not know before, and to make us stronger and purer. Every trial is an opportunity, that “only fortunes favored soldiers may obtain.” The initial stage of chelaship, or discipleship, is all about getting to know our true character better. Every trial of chelaship during this stage is a test of character and an opportunity to strengthen and purify character where necessary.

   “Theosophical Independence”  is produced monthly by Associates of The United Lodge of Theosophists in Philadelphia located at 1917 Walnut Street,   Philadelphia, PA  19103.
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