Rosicrucian Writings Online
Steering Your Course of LifeYOU MAY BE THE CAPTAIN OF YOUR SHIP, BUT DO YOU
KNOW HOW TO CHART YOUR COURSE?
By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest May 1934]
RECENTLY I had a very interesting talk with the captain of a large transoceanic steamship and I want to tell you some of the really significant things he said, but I am fearful that I may not recall all of the technical language which he used and I hope that those more familiar with navigation and nautical terminology than I am will not judge the value of these remarks by the absence of correct terms.
I asked the captain what was the most important aid used by him in steering his course across the great Pacific Ocean, where for many weeks there is nothing to be seen but the sky joining the horizon of the great expanse of water with perhaps an occasional ship to be sighted at a great distance. I told him that I knew, of course, that the position of the sun and of certain stars was exceedingly helpful, if not the most helpful in a general way, and that the highly developed and efficient compass of modern times was also an important aid.
In reply, he told me that I might well eliminate the sun and the stars from consideration and I might eliminate even the compass as a valuable aid unless I included many other things of almost equal importance. This astonished me, as it will probably astonish you. In explanation he said, "If the sky is very dark and overcast at night and the stars are invisible and there are no lights to be seen on the horizon, then surely we can expect little or no aid or assistance from the heavens in either determining our position at sea or directing our course. We must then depend upon the compass for directions but this is not the only factor, the only instrument, the only aid that must be given important consideration. We may see by the compass that our ship is pointed in the right direction and we may feel from every calculation that we are moving in the right direction, but nevertheless, that is no guarantee of a safe journey and no guarantee that we will reach the port which we desire to reach and intend to reach."
Then the captain went on to explain that starting out across the ocean with a predetermined port in mind and starting the ship toward that point or port and keeping it ever moving in the direction of that port is not the big problem nor is it the most important consideration. He said that no matter how well we may intend to reach port or point, or how carefully we will start our ship in the right direction, the fact that our ship is moving in a line that seems to be toward the eventual port is no guarantee that we shall reach the port or reach any place in safety. He called my attention to the very obvious fact that if a railroad engine started out from its roundhouse or from its first great station in the proper direction and if there were no switches set to take it off the main line to a siding and the train was kept moving constantly on the track, it would seem that there would be no question in the mind of the engineer but what the train would eventually reach its destination, wherever that might be. Surely the purpose of the track is to keep the train moving in the right direction and to lead it very positively to the right point. Therefore, it would seem that the engineer operating such a train would have little or nothing to worry about. But such is not the case. Even if the route of the train is not varied by the opening of any switches that would take the train to the right or to the left, there are other factors to be considered which might prevent the train from ever reaching its destination or reaching any place with safety. Upon a little thought this becomes so obvious that we are not surprised at the many safe-guards which railroads have instituted to prevent unexpected accidents.
Then the captain explained to me that while the ocean steamship has no track to travel, as does the railroad train, it nevertheless does have a more or less definite path across the ocean for each of its journeys and that each of the steamships traveling across either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean or any other and making regular journeys to and fro, has a very definite path to which it tries to adhere very closely. I mentioned the interesting fact that at some periods of the year the Atlantic Ocean is travelled from New York to England by a large number of ships following very definite routes and yet one sees only a few of the others during a passage. Each ship is remaining in its path and each ship knows in what paths the other ships are moving. But sticking to these paths, even though they are well charted and marked on huge maps which the captain has before him on the bridge of his boat, is no guarantee that the ship will reach its destination or reach any port in safety.
The captain pointed out to me that it is variation in the daily events of life at sea that constitutes the great problem. He called my attention to the fact that storms can suddenly arise and cause the ship to fight for its privilege of journeying in the right direction. He mentioned also that sudden fogs or banks of fog might not only delay the progress of the boat but cause it to lose its way if it were not for other aids which would help it to determine its position and its movement. And he spoke of high winds and other conditions which are constantly changing and are always more or less new and unexpected but must always be anticipated and for which very definite preparations must always be made.
He told me that within an hour a bank of fog might envelope the ship and leave it in a position where it could depend only upon its compass for determining its course or direction, but even this would not safeguard the ship. If it were not for information and knowledge which the captain and his officers obtain from other ships as to the extent of the fog, the nature of the fog and the condition of weather in other areas of the ocean through which the ship must eventually pass the captain would not be able to tell what to do when in the fog or what to do at any hour of the day in anticipation of unexpected conditions. He must expect and anticipate the changing conditions and know how to take advantage of them, how to protect himself and ship against them, how to cooperate in a sense with the manifestations of nature and thus preserve his course and preserve the safety of the ship. Without this knowledge of how nature is manifesting, without this deep understanding of nature's laws, without being prepared to understand the predicaments that might suddenly arise, he would be at a loss to preserve the course and to save his ship.
"I must expect almost anything and be ready to understand it, interpret it, and adjust myself to it," said the captain. "This is the art and science of navigation. My compass and my ability through instruments to perceive the sun and the stars and determine my exact location is only a small part of my system of guiding my ship and protecting the lives of the people who are with me on the vast open spaces of the ocean."
As the captain went on and explained to me how he must be prepared for any unexpected event by always anticipating it and being prepared to understand it and interpret it, I realized what the science of navigation included and how important it was that a captain should be well-versed in a knowledge of nature's laws, nature's unexpected manifestations, and nature's tests and trials.
And then I thought of the human beings on this earth who are captains of their own individual ships and are trying to steer their course of life toward some well-defined port or goal where they expect to realize the fullness of their journey.
Nearly every human being has some definite port in mind or some goal toward which he is steering his personal ship. Those who are going through life aimlessly and without any port in mind need be given no consideration at this time for they have many other lessons to learn and they would not benefit by anything that the captain said to me or that I might say to them. Since they have no course for their ship and have no goal toward which they are journeying they are not truly captains and, therefore, the wisdom and knowledge that a captain possesses would mean nothing to them. Before they become captains of their ship and prepare to steer that ship toward a proper goal there must be a chart made for their lives and a port or haven selected as the end of their journey.
But for the majority the sea of life is like unto open spaces of the ocean. The goal set by most of us is not more invisible than the distant port on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. Nor are the storms of the sea, the fogs of the winter and the other changing conditions of ocean travel any more tempestuous, disconcerting, discouraging, and filled with serious problems than are the trials and tribulations of our journey through life. But what preparation does the average human being have for steering his course through life as positively, as definitely and safely as does the well-prepared captain have for bringing his ship safely into the distant port?
It is true that we have the schools for mental training and academic education that enable us to read and write and to see and understand. But what do we see, and of what we see, what do we understand? And how little do we know of the space that lies between our present position and the distant port toward which our ship is directed? We may have worked out a map like the navigator's chart that shows a path across the sea of life and it may be that we have placed our ship in that path and look forward to keeping it there and eventually reaching the port and its end. It may be that through some academic training in college or university we have been given upon our graduation that magic device of wisdom, the ability to think, reason, and analyze, that constitutes the magnificent magnetic compass that will tell us when we are on our course or off it. This compass may tell us when we are reasonable, when we are safe and sound in our thinking and doing, and it may tell us how to exercise our individual faculties in observing and analyzing the ordinary things of life, but what aid have we and what magical instrument of mentality or consciousness do we have that enables us to see in the fogs, to observe things in the immediate darkness of night and to anticipate and understand not only the unexpected, the unknown, but the sure storms and tempests that await us in our journey?
As I think about the letters and comments that come to me from day to day from thousands of our members in all parts of the Western World, telling of their increasing abilities to anticipate and meet the emergencies of life and how this preparation enables them to keep their ships steadily in the right course and to weather the storms, I realize more and more the importance of the studies that are included in the work of the Rosicrucian system of human development.
The knowledge given to our members through our lessons and magazine articles constitutes that compass and that book of Life's landmarks which are like unto the compass and the nautical almanac which the captain uses as an aid in applying his understanding and his wisdom for the protection of his ship.
Every week I receive letters from persons who have not had this training and who have not prepared themselves and these letters tell me that their ship of life has become floundered or lost in the fogs and storms of their earthly course. They are able to determine their present position without any doubt and yet they are lost. Like a captain who might be able to consult the sun and the stars and his compass and determine that he is at a certain latitude and longitude of the high seas, these persons are able to tell just where they are in their progress from the beginning toward the end, but unlike the captain they do not know which way to move to avoid the storm that has beset them or get out of the darkness that surrounds them or to move out of the fog that has encompassed them or to weather the strifes and terrific battles that are threatening to wreck their ships and blind them on their course.
Such persons cry in the darkness for a light to guide them. They are the real seekers who demand our help and who must be saved from that ignorance which has become a curse in the lives of men and women. Nothing that they have learned in the average college or university helps them in their predicament. The greatest aid they have is that which was created out of similar experiences in life through which they have come to know the laws of nature and the mysteries of the universe. But when they have had the benefit of the training and education which our organization--and similar organizations--have given to them they are not only fearless in their anticipation of the unexpected events of life and, therefore, calm and rational in the face of the unexpected, but they are prepared to properly interpret and understand the occurrences of life and to see each event in its true form, in its correct relationship with other events and to analyze the conditions in a constructive manner. They, too, come to learn how to determine whether the fog that surrounds them is deep and of great extent or merely a passing bank that will move on and again permit the sun with all of its enlightenment and life to bathe them and guide them. They, too, will know whether the storm that tears around them is increasing or decreasing and whether it is filled with dire horrors or of short duration. They, too, know whether beyond the immediate horizon of their present observation there lies calm and open water which may be traversed safely and joyfully. They know whether the superstitious beliefs of the ignorant ones around them are to be given credence or cast aside.
Understanding life and its problems and being prepared to meet the emergencies which arise hourly and daily not only fortifies the individual and enables him to steer his ship aright, but it gives him that calmness, that poise, that assurance, that peace, that passeth all understanding and dominates every situation and brings safety and success to the daily actions. This preparedness is not to be found in the great college or academic courses, nor even in the fundamental principles of any of our educational systems. It comes only from a broader and yet a more intimate viewpoint of life in its fullness and of all the principles, laws, and the great logos itself that unites man with the universal manifestations in every department of worldly existence. It is for this reason that the members of such an organization as the Rosicrucians find greater success and happiness in life and easily overcome life's problems and adjust themselves to the situations that might otherwise leave them floundering, discouraged, and unable to direct their course with safety and sureness.
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