The Sacred Presence Next to Us
An Opportunity Before
Those Who Have Eyes to See
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Every earnest student of philosophy gets sooner or later fully aware of the struggle between that in his life which is enlightened and that which stays in the shadow and boycotts his progress towards light.
And the student asks himself:
“How can I deal with the shadow of ignorance so as to transform it into the light of wisdom?”
The answers to this question do not remain unchanged. They evolve and acquire deeper meanings as the pilgrim makes progress along the way.
How to deal with the shadow becomes an urgent question because ignorance seems to get stronger from the moment the pilgrim makes a firm decision to search for wisdom. In fact, it gets more visible. The light of truth reveals everything: victory and defeat, devotion and disloyalty, right actions as well as wrong deeds - in us and around us.
Negative thoughts and feelings may hypnotize, if one’s vigilance is not strong enough. Regarding the paradox of light and shadow, esoteric philosophy teaches:
“When you have found the beginning of the way the star of your soul will show its light; and by that light you will perceive how great is the darkness in which it burns. Mind, heart, brain, all are obscure and dark until the first great battle has been won. Be not appalled and terrified by this sight; keep your eyes fixed on the small light and it will grow.” 
This is the student’s greatest weapon. Contemplation of the spiritual world leads to harmlessness and liberates one from the dilemma created by an alternation between fear and anger. It opens room to happiness, fullness, humility - and peace.
The key to victory lies in keeping the central focus of one’s mind and heart concentrated on that which is good, and secondarily looking at failures and mistakes with the firm intention of correcting them.
Karma depends on the intention. Do we really want wisdom? We must then search on every occasion for that which is balanced, morally beautiful and ethically just. Having an elevated focus of mind we can see that, whether we know it or not, we are side by side all the time with a divine energy. The sacred presence is Atma-Buddhi, the Universal Law, the Inner Master, the immortal soul or higher self. Whether they are asleep or awake, with concentrated or distracted minds, human beings are ever in front of, or beside, such a divine and multidimensional energy. No term or name is good enough to fully describe it. The practice of sacred presence consists in remembering that, by being human, we are constantly in the presence of the Eternal Law and Unlimited Intelligence. This is a Pythagorean idea, later absorbed by Christian mysticism.
It is easy to forget that there is a divine intelligence next to us. And even while the sacred presence is forgotten, it remains fully active in the aura of the individual. Its objective aspects make “photographs” of all thoughts, emotions and facts, both pleasant and unpleasant. Nothing escapes the Law, and as a Master wrote, everything is unceasingly recorded for one’s future credit and debit.
The Homing Instinct
Many a student of theosophy tries to keep in mind an active remembrance of the fact that his own inner being is essentially correct, and secondarily subject to illusions and mistakes.
He firmly remembers the sacred presence for some time and then forgets it; he recalls it again, and thus the struggle goes on. He learns more at each new mistake. Little by little, he comes to know how to receive a victory with humbleness and face a defeat preserving inner peace. Thus the ups and downs of the “karmic tide” cease to have an exaggerated impact on the pilgrim.
However, real progress is a long-term process. An entire lifetime is not enough to accomplish the task. A few incarnations are necessary for the constant and “instinctive” perception of the sacred presence to be born in the Heart and Mind of the pilgrim. The true awakening then takes place.
During an international meeting in the 1990s, a European theosophist talked about the existence in human soul of a “homing instinct”, an “instinct which leads us back home”. What is the meaning of the word “home” in the sentence? The spiritual soul is one’s Home. It is from the immortal soul that a ray of light is projected so as to start each new incarnation. And it is to the immortal soul that the lower self “instinctively” comes back after the death of the physical body. It is in the spiritual soul that the lower self rests and dissolves itself in peace, while sleeping as a baby sleeps in the loving arms of his mother.
The theosophical path changes the process. It anticipates the time of “coming back home”, so that it takes place during physical life and while the student is in good health. The process occurs through the student’s discovery of divine wisdom in his own heart and mind. As a result the mind places itself “instinctively” at the service of the Heart, which happens to be an occult counterpart of the Sun.
In Astrology and Esoteric Philosophy, the heart is a miniature of the center of our solar system. When one’s mind and heart are united, both become representations of the Sun. The golden aureole around the heads of saints in ancient pictures symbolizes this fact, as a Master of the Wisdom writes in the Mahatma Letters.
How can the pilgrim avoid the dangers of the shadow produced by the light of his soul’s little sun?
There is no need to feed superstitious fears regarding the “shadow”. The shadow is the unlearned lesson. It is the wee hours of the morning, which promise and prepare the next sunrise. The shadow is also the spiritual intuition. It is the eve of the Light. Everything is made of Light in the Universe, whether manifested or potential, and the “dark night of the soul”, in the phrase coined by John of the Cross, is the early morning of spiritual enlightenment.
Every light must face challenges. They are easier to overcome due to the mutual help among pilgrims.
A candle may produce a shadow if it is not well placed. When there are various candles, however, the whole room gets enlightened with no significant shadows. It is a good idea, therefore, to combine the lights of different and reliable individuals and preserve the common focus of these independent small suns, all centered in the source of universal wisdom.
 “Light on the Path”, M.C., Theosophy Co., India, commentary to rule 20 in the first set of rules, p. 19.
The Sacred Presence Next to Us
See also the texts “The Practice of Divine Presence” and “The Direct Experience of Sacredness”, by C.C. Aveline.
E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).