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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Chapter I
Chapter I

Looking back over my early childhood, I experience a feeling of great dislike of it all. That is of course a bad note upon which to begin the story of one's life. It is what metaphysicians call a negative statement. But the statement is true. I do not like much that I remember about my childhood though many of my possible readers might think it all quite wonderful in comparison with the early years of countless thousands. Many people say that childhood is the happiest time of a person's life. I do not for one minute believe it. They were for me the years of greatest physical comfort and of luxury; they were years of freedom from all material anxiety but they were, at the same time, years of miserable questioning, of disillusionment, of unhappy discovery and of loneliness.

Yet as I write this, I am conscious of the fact that the miseries of childhood (and perhaps this is true of all life as a whole,) loom unduly large and appear more terrific than they were in reality. There is a curious trait in human nature which loves to record and emphasize the unhappy moments and the tragedies but overlooks the moments of gaiety and joy and of uneventual peace and happiness. Our hours of stress and strain appear to affect our consciousness (that curious recording agent of all events) far more than do the untold hours of ordinary living. If we could but realize it, those placid, uneventful hours always, in the last analysis, predominate. They are the hours, days, weeks and months in which character forms, stabilizes and becomes available for use in the crises - real, objective, and often momentous - with which we are at intervals down the years confronted. Then what we developed as character either stands the test [10] and indicates a way out, or fails and we go down, temporarily at least. It is in this fashion that we are forced to go on learning. As I look back over my childhood, it is not the countless hours of uneventful happiness, the moments of peaceful rhythm and the weeks in which nothing disturbing ever occurred which persist in my memory, but moments of crisis and the hours when I was utterly miserable and the times when life seemed ended and nothing worthwhile lay ahead.

I can recollect my eldest daughter reaching such a moment when she was in her early twenties. She felt that there was nothing to live for, and that life was a monotonous waste. Why was life so stupid? Why did she have to take it? Not knowing what to say, I fell back on my own experience and remember so well saying to her, "Well, darling, one thing I can tell you. You never know what lies just around the corner." I never found that religion, or common sense platitudes - as usually dished out - help in a time of crisis. What lay for her around the corner was the man she married, to whom she became engaged within a week and with whom she has been happy ever since.

One needs to cultivate the awareness of the things of joy and happiness and not only register the things of sorrow and difficulty. The good, as well as the bad, are a total which matters and which warrants remembrance. The first enables us to retain our belief in the love of God. The second brings discipline and feeds our aspiration. The rapturous moments when a sunset arrests our amazed attention, or the silence, deep and unbroken, of the moors and country envelop one's spirit - those are points of remembrance; a skyline or a riot of color in a garden engrossing us to the exclusion of all else; friend calling to friend and a resulting hour of communion and of satisfying contact; some beauty of the human soul emerging triumphant in the face of [11] difficulty - these are the things which must not pass unrecognized. They constitute the great conditioning factors of life. They indicate the divine. Why is it that they are so often forgotten and the disagreeable, sad or terrible things remain fixtures in one's mind? I do not know. Apparently on this peculiar planet of ours, suffering is registered more acutely than happiness and seems more enduring in effect. Perhaps, also, we are afraid of happiness and push it away from us under the influence of man's great outstanding characteristic - Fear.

In esoteric circles, there is much learned talk about the Law of Karma which is, after all, only the Eastern name for the great Law of Cause and Effect; the emphasis is ever upon evil karma and how to avoid it. Yet I would guarantee that, taking it by and large, there is far more general good karma than evil; I say this in spite of the world war, the unutterable horror by which we have been and are still surrounded and in spite of a real knowledge of the things with which all social workers constantly have to deal. The evil and the misery will pass but happiness will remain; above everything else will come the realization that what we have so badly built must disappear and that ours is now the opportunity to build a new and better world. This is true because God is good, life and experience are good, and the will-to-good is eternally present. Always we are proffered the opportunity to right the wrongs which we have wrought and to put straight the crooked places for which we are responsible.

The details of my unhappiness are so remote that I cannot be specific and I do not intend to inflict upon you what I do remember. Many of the causes lay within myself, of that I am sure. From the worldly angle, I had no reason to be miserable and my family and friends would have been greatly surprised had they known my reactions. Have you [12] not many times in life wondered what goes on in the mind of a child? Children do have definite ideas on life and circumstances, and they do belong to themselves in a way with which no one can interfere but which is seldom recognized. I cannot remember the time when I was not thinking, and puzzling and asking questions and rebelling and hoping. Yet I was 35 years old before I really discovered that I had a mind and that it was something which I could use. Up to that time, I had been a bundle of emotions and feelings; my mind - what there was of it - had used me and not been used by me. At any rate, I was thoroughly unhappy until I broke away to live my own life around the age of 22. During those early years I was surrounded by beauty; my life was full of variety and I met many interesting people. I never knew what it was to want anything. I was brought up in the usual luxury of my day and class; I was watched over with the greatest care - but within myself I hated it all.

I was born on June 16th, 1880, in the city of Manchester, England, where my father was engaged on an engineering project connected with his father's firm - one of the most important in Great Britain. I was, therefore, born under the sign of Gemini. This always means a conflict between the opposites - poverty and riches, the heights of happiness and the depths of sorrow, the pull between the soul and personality or between the higher self and the lower nature. The United States and London are ruled by Gemini and therefore it is in that country and Great Britain that the great conflict between capital and labor will be solved; two groups which involve the interests of the very rich and the very poor.

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