From The Monthly Letters of the congregation in Edinburgh, published by A. Bittleston and T. Bay.
Particularly when we begin a new year, we need to have firm hopes for the future. We need a hope both for the destiny of humanity in general, and in our own personal lives. It is difficult to achieve this at the present time, not simply because the world is troubled— there have been troubles and violent change at almost every period of man’s history—but because our physical senses make such a powerful impression upon us. More than ever before, man is inclined to imagine a future which is simply a continuation of what he sees happen externally at the moment. Cars are increasing in number: we cannot help imagining a future in which earth and air are completely infested with speeding vehicles. But man’s development does not really go in straight lines like this; the direction of his interest changes, and from every aberration he is drawn back to the things which are essential for him.
The real future is to be felt above us in the spiritual world. Emil Bock once made a remarkable comparison, in connection with the life of St. Paul. Just as it is possible to find beneath the surface of the earth, layer upon layer, the relics of the past, so, he said, the future is prepared above us, layer upon layer, among the spirits of the Hierarchies. From these realms human souls descend, when they are to enter a physical body and to live on earth. To be born, for the human soul, is a journey from the future into the present. Young children generally carry with them great reserves of hopefulness, their life in the spirit being still so near to them. And there are even some who have not come down completely into the earthly present—who have been born prematurely, for example, as was Paul himself.
Paul speaks of his premature birth in immediate connection with the appearance of the Risen Christ before Damascus. “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Paul was a man of the future; in many respects, a man of our present time. His way of experiencing the Christ was more characteristic of our present and immediate future than of his own day. Paul’s consciousness penetrated through the surface of the sense world into the realms of life, where the pure archetypes of all living things press on towards realisation in the visible. The Damascus event is celebrated according to tradition on 25th January, when nature is still without much visible change, but the invisible powers are very near to manifestation. Man’s heart can be preserved as a vessel of hope, if the soul is active in the ways which the Magi expressed in their significant gifts, and which Paul cultivated faithfully as servant of the Christ. In prayer, the soul rises like the smoke of incense from the level of the present into the realms of promise. In the gold of the spirit, there shine the enduring Divine purposes for humanity and for individual men. And from every true, quiet attempt at meditation we carry away impulses towards positive action—impulses represented in the gift of healing myrrh. Then our freedom will help to bring the future into fulfilment.