THEOSOPHY, Vol. 32, No. 4, February, 1944
(Pages 159-161; Size: 10K)
(Number 4 of a 6-part series)



DUE to the materializing influence of the age, terms originally used to signify spiritual powers are now misapplied to external things. Loss of philosophy ever brings about confusion of terms, and confusion of terms leads to still greater darkness. The Messengers of Theosophy deplored the paucity of words in our language to express with clearness spiritual truths, but stated unequivocally that the arrival of such words must needs await the gaining of knowledge. Their work, therefore, was not to coin new words, but to implant ideas, to teach philosophy, on the basis of which, in the course of due time, the proper terms will be evolved in the natural way -- from within outward. How else is language born except as an outward lingua of the soul, except for the purpose of expression of pre-existing ideas?

H. P. Blavatsky chose the English language in her work of presenting Theosophy to the world, and as every student of the philosophy knows, taxed it to the limit. This, not only with respect to the extent of the vocabulary, but also as regards the words themselves, their hidden or forgotten meanings. William Q. Judge advocated constant use of the dictionary, for, as he showed, many current terms, if traced to their derivations, will be found to rest upon a foundation of the true. Words have souls. They are not the dead outward things they seem to be, and one of the tasks of theosophists is to rescue from oblivion the hidden jewels of wisdom they contain. Perhaps no more potent example of this can be found than the term enthusiasm, now almost totally soulless, almost wholly destitute of its true and primal meaning.

The term enthusiasm comes from the Greek, and originally meant "inspiration by divine afflatus or by the presence of a god." The inspiration of poets was referred to by Socrates as a form of enthusiasm, for true enthusiasm ever implied a state of exaltation of the soul. Thus it was that in the fourth century of our era a sect in Syria called themselves the "Enthusiasts." They believed that "by perpetual prayer, ascetic practices and contemplation, man could become inspired by the Holy Spirit" -- by his own Higher Manas, the theosophist of today would say. The term should bear this meaning now, but alas, we know it does not.

Generally, that which men call enthusiasm is little more than impassioned emotion, or sporadic outbursts of fanaticism. Enthusiasm is a power of the Higher Mind, whereas fanaticism springs from the lower mind. How often we say that a friend is "terribly enthusiastic" about something, the thing referred to usually being some object of personal ambition or desire, or that So-and-so "was enthused" with a certain work, but has now become interested in something else. How can these fitful spurts of interest, which move most men, spring from the realm of Higher Mind, whose nature is firmness, constancy, control? Enthusiasm, to be true, must be constant. It must, above all, be unselfish, when it becomes that enlightened devotion expended for the good of all.

The Spirit in the universe is one, just as the Mind in man is one, but both, during the period of manifestation, present a two-fold aspect -- Spirit and Matter, Higher and Lower Manas. Spirit is the source from which all power comes, Mind, the channel through which it flows. Directed through the regions of the Higher Mind, the creative potency of Spirit is universal, impersonal and pure, and thus may be rightly termed enthusiasm. But flowing through the realms of Lower Mind, it is personal, selfish, impure, and becomes base desire or fanaticism. Through one, man lifts himself to the margins of divinity and raises all life to a higher plane. Through the other, he perpetrates crimes which even Satan himself would be proud to confess. What man but knows the creative potency of enthusiasm, the beneficent power of a mind full lit by the fire of devotion? And who but has seen the havoc wrought at the hands of fanatics? Every religious crusade, from ancient down to modern times, has been promoted by the zeal of religious fanatics -- mis-called enthusiasts. Not a crime in the whole history of criminology that has not been at some time perpetrated in the name of the Lord.

True enthusiasm ever implies a spiritual outlook, a universal point of view. Acting through a mind embued with right ideas, it opens new vistas into higher realms, and fashions all things in the likeness of the true. It provides the power needed for the work in hand. How is it possible, one may ask, that the enthusiast can work on and on and never seem to tire, can exhibit great strength in an hour of need? It is the force of Spirit flowing directly from the Higher Self, a working through the lower of the Higher Man. For true enthusiasm is divine fire kindled at the flame of spiritual aspiration, a fire not to be quenched by the difficulty of the task, by passing criticism, or the fear of public opinion. It is action on this plane of the Divine Ego, who knows, and has no fear.

Few there be who understand the relationship between enthusiasm and fanaticism, for fine is the line of demarcation between the two. To exclaim loudly or rave excitedly about everything one sees or does is not a state of exaltation of the soul, but is fanaticism of the simplest kind. True enthusiasm is ever calm and seldom shows itself on the outside. Others feel rather than see the beneficence of its force. Whereas the false enthusiast, or fanatic, is over-bearing, one-sided, and seldom able to see another's view, the true enthusiast takes the humbler way. His work is for the good of others.

How, then, know the difference in the nature of the two, do we ask? Study the nature of the dual Mind -- find one's place in the scheme of things. Are we as zealous in the performance of what we should do, as in pursuit of what we like to do? Are we as keenly interested in the welfare of all as in the good of those of close accord? Is our enthusiasm enlightened by knowledge, by a perception of the great Plan of Life which includes the whole? The Master of Wisdom works only through the regions of the Higher Mind, in whose mirror He sees reflected the whole Plan of Evolution. Through this pattern the power of His spirit flows. His interest includes the interest of all, His zeal the welfare of the human race. Like the sun in heaven, the enthusiasm of the Master shines with equal warmth for every living soul.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


If you should see a man that had a large pond of water, yet living in continued thirst, not suffering himself to drink half a draught, for fear of lessening his pond; if you should see him wasting his time and strength, in fetching more water to his pond, always thirsty, yet always carrying a bucket of water in his hand, watching early and late to catch the drops of rain, gaping after every cloud, and running greedily into every mire and mud, in hopes of water, and always studying how to make every ditch empty itself into his pond. If you should see him grow grey and old in these anxious labours, and at last end a careful, thirsty life, by falling into his own pond, would you not say, that such an one was not only the author of all his own disquiets, but was foolish enough to be reckoned amongst idiots and madmen? But yet foolish and absurd as this character is, it does not represent half the follies, and absurd disquiets of the covetous man. 

--WILLIAM LAW (1728)

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