The Potential of Fleeting Moments

"I seize a few moments to acknowledge your letter." With these simple words does Mr. Judge begin one of the most valuable of his Letters That Have Helped Me, letters originally written to his close comrade, Jasper Niemand, but now the inheritance of all students of Theosophy. Readers who have the book by them may care to open it and run their eye over Letter VIII in Volume I, noting how many key points of W.Q.J.'s teaching are to be found, set like gems, in this one letter.

Yet, presumably, it was not written in some quiet study, certainly not in some leisure hour of philosophic calm. No, he was at that time a busy Editor, a tireless writer of books and articles; a diligent lecturer touring the States on behalf of the Movement; a practising lawyer, too—such was his profession—and, alas, a man whose health was already failing. But his mind was utterly one-pointed. He had but to lift his pen and Theosophic wisdom flowed from it, so that even "a few moments" could be turned to account, those little moments that, all too often, others let slip as heedlessly as grains of sand running through their fingers. Small as they are, he sees them in several different aspects. He appraises their potential and their quality. He dignifies them by calling them "the sons of Kala."

Think, first, of their potential—yes, the potential of those tiny things, the moments, which race away from us with every tick of our watches but are yet to be met up with again in the days and years ahead. "The future, then, for each," says Mr. Judge, "will come from each present moment. As we use the moment so we shift the future up or down for good or ill; for the future being only a word for the present—not yet come—we have to see the present more than all. If the present is full of doubt or vacillation, so will be the future; if full of confidence, calmness, hope, courage and intelligence, thus also will be the future."

Do we think of the moments like that? Can a moment really play a part in the making of our Karma? Why not?—for moments are successive, leading on through hours and days and years until our life-span is completed. It would be folly to underrate them merely because of smallness. Are not our bodies themselves made up of atoms?

Mr. Judge sees this principle of succession clearly. "The moments as they fly past before us, carrying all things with them in long procession, are the atoms of Time, the sons of Kala." These words occur near the beginning of his strange story "The Magic Screen of Time" which ends with the injunction, "Listen to the march of the Future." But the future can only come because of the moments, tiny as they are. And rightly does Mr. Judge say that according to our use of them will that future be good or ill.

It is our usage that gives them their quality, for the moments themselves are neutral. If some prove of value to us and others not, that, again, is our own doing, and before we can avow as firmly as Mr. Judge that "we care not for those moments which relate alone to our body," we must have learnt, to some extent at least, to "live in our hearts," i.e., in our true selfhood where we "prove that space and time exist not."

Such a transition is not easily achieved and Mr. Judge's advice concerning it may at first seem somewhat paradoxical. We would expect him to bid us make, perhap, a tremendous effort of self-control, to will ourselves into becoming different, to renounce this, that or the other. But see what he says—actually in the very letter he sat down to write in those "few moments." The first step in becoming is Resignation. Resignation is the sure, true, and royal road....Assert to yourself that it is not of the slightest consequence what you were yesterday, but in every moment strive for that moment; the results will follow of themselves.

What a maxim for a lifetime! In every moment strive for that moment. Our own potential, like the moment's, would be exploited to the full by such one-pointedness of action. Free from regret for lost or misspent time, from dissatisfaction or foreboding due to "what you were yesterday," a student acting on that advice would gain a bonus of energy for the work on hand. Mr. Judge debars futile looking back. "I care not what I was, or what anyone was. I only look for what I am each moment. For as each moment is and at once is not, it must follow that if we think of the past we forget the present, and while we forget, the moments fly by us, making more past. Then regret nothing, not even the greatest follies of your life, for they are gone, and you are to work in the present which is both past and future at once."

Does not this bring home to us how weigty the moment is? It, too, is in a state of constant becoming—becoming, mysteriously, both past and future simultaneously. Well may Mr. Judge remind us that "nothing in the material world endures absolutely unchanged in itself or its conditions, even for the smallest conceivable portion of time. All that is, is forever in process of becoming something else. This is an old established doctrine called, in the East, the "doctrine of the constant, eternal change of every atom from state to state."

To one holding the doctrine of becoming, every moment even as it passes matters much, yet Mr. Judge tells us that "the soul of all is measured by the whole of Time and not by a part." He enlarges upon this in a reply to an inquiry evidently put to him by his correspondent. "You ask about the 'moment of choice.' It is made up of all moments. it is not in space or time, but is the aggregation of those moments flying by us each instant. it is referred a period not yet arrived for the race, when it will as a whole be compelled to make choice for good or evil" (Letters, p. 5). This is a true view of inner direction; no one moment, however apparently meaningful, really determines it; rather does every moment, however unconsciously lived and used, have its cumulative effect on the individual, so that a crisis, if it come, must needs be dealt with by him as he then is. But that, Mr. Judge warns us, is by no means the end of the matter. "Even if it"—the choice for good or evil—"be presented to him and he refuse, he will be brought to the choice in future existences." Then will he find, as already stated, that that moment is made up of all his moments.

A solemn thought, and one that we may flinch from believing, fearing that as our progress is lamentably slow, the moment when it comes may find us unready. But again Mr. Judge draws encouragement from the doctrine of Becoming, in which the tiny fleeting moments play so important a part. "The processes of preparation go silently on till the individual, all unconscious, reaches the moment when the one needed force touches him, and then every prepared constituent falls instantly into place and the being is—as it were—reconstructed at once. Conceptions, relations, aims are revolutionized."

How this comes about must remain a mystery to us, we looking at our life's events mainly from the outside and often misjudging them. We may have to go a pretty long journey into time before realizing that what seemed "all wrong" for us was in reality "all right." Again Mr. Judge speaks his word of wisdom. "It is best not to inquire into some of the mysteries of life, but surely a full reliance upon the Spirit within and upon the law that the hands that smite us are our own, will relieve the pressure of some events that seem mysteries. I find the greatest consolation in these reflections, and then I see that each moment is mine, and that when gone it is passed and merged into the sum of my being; and so I must strive to Be. Thus I may hope to become in time the conscious possessor of the whole Being."

This ultimate goal of Being, as opposed to the ever-changing flow of becoming, is to be attained to moment by moment, which is why anything that Mr. Judge has to say of these often disregarded, even despised, scraps of time is so valuable. Yet none could speak with greater insight than he of the mystery of Time itself. We have two fine articles from his pen on this great subject, the one on "Cycles," to be found in The Heart Doctrine, the other, on "Cyclic Impression and Return and Our Evolution," a reprint of the lecture delivered by him before the Convention of the American Section of the Theosophical Society, held at Chicago in April 1892 (U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 24). in THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT for October 1991 appeared an equally valuable reprint of another of his addresses, this time on "Cycles and Cyclic Law," delivered to the Theosophical Congress at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago World's Fair, in September 1893.

In all of these he sounds the depths and they call for close study, for he is dealing with what Patanjali himself sees as a most recondite theme. Says that Sage in Book III of his Yoga Aphorisms (Verse 53): "A great and most subtile knowledge springs from the discrimination that follows upon concentration of the mind performed with regard to the relation between moments and their order." On this Mr. Judge comments: "Patanjali speaks of ultimate divisions of time which cannot be further divided, and of the order in which they precede and succeed each other. It is asserted that a perception of these minute periods can be acquired, and the result will be that he who discriminates thus goes on to greater and wider perception of principles in nature which are so recondite that modern philosophy does not even know of their existence."

The mere perusal of these words may quicken in us a sense of the deep mystery and sublime order prevailing in the cosmos. But understanding is far beyond us. And what matter? More immediate are the tiny sons of Kala.

It is with these that Mr. Judge would have us concern ourselves. He does not bid us look at "the grand clock of the Universe," as he calls it, but he speaks for all of us when he claims, "Each moment is mine," and urges, "In every moment strive for that moment."

Fellow students, let us keep watch. Let us have done with "stray moments." Rather let us seize them, even as Mr. Judge did, in their flight. So acting, or endeavouring to act, we have his assurance, backed by his wisdom and experience, "When the hour strikes it will then find you ready."

There is one eternal Law in nature, one that always tends to adjust contraries and to produce final harmony. It is owing to this law of spiritual development superseding the physical and purely intellectual, that mankind will become freed from its false gods and find itself finally—SELF-REDEEMED.

The Secret Doctrine, II, 420

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