DISCERNING the how and why of human uniqueness, from the likes of Mozart to the fearless passion of Julia Butterfly Hill, is always perplexing.
Lacking the seer’s knowingness, we’d be forced to trudge for clues into the intricate threads of reincarnations, and sift the karmic sands of countless past lives.
Teilhard de Chardin’s idea that we are “spiritual beings immersed in a human experience,” barely begins to explain the innate genius of a Mozart composing music score at age three.
Or why Julia, at twenty-four years old, would choose to spend a dangerous two years alone atop a giant forest redwood, protecting it from hostile, clear-cutting loggers.
We all sport a convincing sense of individual identity, a persistent ‘I am I and no other’ consciousness, and an eternal soul that hovers, hawk-like — silently and all-seeing — soaring sure-eyed above the Salton Sea of each new personality.
Trauma patients with memory loss are convinced of their egoity, even if they don’t remember who in the world they are. Amnesiacs forget their own name, family, email, and favorite movie and food—yet their sense of ‘I’ persists.
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 consent as is your body.” The worldly person you have forgotten, it was not the Real You.
In every rebirth, we get reconnected to our preexisting, personal and collective karmic web. The lessons (karma) of this web are ongoing opportunities—steps leading to our growing self-awareness, and enlightenment.
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.
Like the youthful Prince Siddhārtha, in the beginning our genius lurks undiscovered and unexpressed. In Swedish artist Marianna Rydvlad’s painting pictured 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, would 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 might have been a homeless person asleep. In one context, this would have been true — 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, paraphrasing de Beaumarchais famous saying about love, “even too much is not enough.”
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.
“Look inward, 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 numerous other threads which combined together are called the lifetime meditation, from which we may choose to hang.
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.
The Settled Heart
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.”
Have You forgotten?
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.
“Great Genius if true and innate,” Blavatsky wrote, “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.”
“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, “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.”
“Where did he get the capacity?” Judge asks. “Heredity does not explain that. We explain it by reincarnation.” (On “Common Doctrines”)
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.
By the age of four, 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!
The Human iPod
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?
The 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.
“…that which remains from each personality, when worthy…hangs from the Flame by the thread of life.”