THEOSOPHY, Vol. 91, Winter 2002-2003
(Pages 4-10; Size: 14K)


[Article number (21) in this Department]

Do we all have an inner guide?

To do the "right thing," to have "right knowledge," goes to the heart of our being, our beliefs, our sense of reality, and our sense of religion and philosophy. Deep down, where do we draw lines between our being and that wellspring of certainty that is at times so unfamiliar it no longer seems a part of us? What is it really? We are eminently resourceful, and very diverse in what we trust. Unfortunately, abundant evidence exists that people listen to the wrong "little voice" all the time, with violent and sorrowful results.

To do the right thing eventually seems to require more than our daily reserves. We reach deeper or farther to grasp what we need to know. In moments of crisis or upheaval especially, common leadership often offers shortsighted answers. When worldly resources lack adequacy, however, self-reflection replaces triviality. Through trauma, we often test our truest principles.

Time and again, our lives give testimony to sources of strength, courage, and insight beyond what we thought ourselves capable. As early as the writing of the Rig Veda (1.164.37, from Andrew Wilson's World Scriptures, 1991), this transference was described as cosmic law: "What thing I am I do not know. / I wander secluded, burdened by my mind. / When the Firstborn of Truth has come to me. / I receive a share of that selfsame Word."

Religions and philosophers vary greatly in how they describe this truth -- some expressions are condemned as heretical, some revered as mystical. Worship in its truest sense is a process of making the heart receptive, an opening to this divine presence. But impediments are many, and the focus from inner to outer sources produces one of the greatest controversies along the path. The role of divine grace as the response called upon is equally misunderstood. More and more questions arise. Theosophy has tools to help the seeker discern illusion from reality along the myths and legends of our times. Several views of this question -- do we all have an inner guide? -- are explored below, as facets of inquiry:


Although we are certainly influenced from without, we are guided from within. The question of having an inner guide quickly becomes complex once we consider that we each are the final arbiters of our own destinies. On the surface, we are thrown into circumstances and situations that we have not consciously chosen, yet how we interface with the cards life has dealt us is ultimately up to each of us. We are choosers. We even choose not to choose sometimes and feel that fate or mere chance is at work. The theosophical perspective on this is well summed up by H.P. Blavatsky in her Secret Doctrine (i, 643-644):

We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the riddles of life we will not solve, and then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring us. But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day, or a misfortune that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or in another life. If one breaks the laws of Harmony, or, as a theosophical writer expresses it, "the laws of life," one must be prepared to fall into the chaos one has oneself produced.
If we reflect on what prompts us to action and use that for a moment as a definition of our inner guide, we see that there are a number of guides within us vying for power. The one that is in command at any given time depends on our present state of consciousness. We are directed to a lesser or greater degree by our emotions, our intellect, our likes and dislikes, a multiplicity of desires, higher aspirations and a sense of obligation and duty. And all of these are tinted by the reservoir of ideas we hold to be true about ourselves and life as a whole.

Having said all this, each of us seem to have a "master guide" that comes through all the static, smoke and distortion of our everyday consciousness. The most common expression we call conscience -- that quiet but authoritative voice within that lets us know when things are not quite right, when there is a moral imperative to declare ourselves in spite of the prevailing winds, when to choose on behalf of the greater good rather than only for ourselves. Our guide also shows itself at times in the expression of "intuition," that higher discerning power that allows us to see to the heart of a matter in a "flash" (a process beyond and above the usual analyzing intellect) and helps us to make choices that are truly inspired if not always seemingly practical in the work-a-day world.

This inner guide is concerned with what is vital in life and does not respond to the theoretical, whim or fancy, the desires of the senses or personal ambition. It is the "Spiritual Steersman" that aids us as we navigate through the murky waters of human evolution on the physical plane. It is the mahatma, the magician, the oracle, the prophet on the mountain, and the Christ within. We bring it forward when we break through the bars of self-satisfaction, the habitual and the uninvolved. We must be engaged in life to call on our inner powers. Higher qualities such as courage, honesty, compassion, an all inclusive vision of life and a strong commitment to embracing the highest truths of being are what allow us to live in the conscious atmosphere of the master guide.


We have two inner guides. As HPB says in Isis Unveiled (Vol. ii, 593), "[Our] destiny is guided by that presence termed by some the guardian angel, or our more intimate astral inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the man of flesh or the personality. Both these lead on Man, but one of them must prevail...."

We have two inner guides, because we are dual in nature, with an immortal, permanent, spiritual self -- called variously the higher self, the reincarnating ego or the individuality (that which cannot be divided, conquered or destroyed), and a mortal, temporary (one life), material self -- called the lower self, the non-reincarnating ego or the personality. That which is being guided by these two is the conscious mind, the mind in its everyday waking state. The mind is the cause of all action on the physical plane, but what causes the mind to think (and thereby cause action to take place) in a particular way is its tendency to attend to the voice of its higher or its lower self.

The higher guide is the voice of intuition. It gives spiritual insight into life, into ourselves and into other people. It urges us to practice all the paramitas, the golden virtues: patience, determination, kindness, charity, forgiveness, courage, and tranquility. It speaks to us as the voice of conscience. When the conscious mind lends its ear to this guide, we think and act for the self of all, in harmony with the fundamental laws of life. This is the real guardian angel, and it lives within ourselves.

The lower guide is the voice of self-interest. It shows us how to survive in the material world. Without the higher self to command it, it urges us to practice all the vices, all the various manifestations of greed, lust, and anger. It speaks to us as the voice of self promotion, urging us to satisfy our personal desires for pleasure, status, and wealth. When the conscious mind heeds this guide, we think and act for ourselves and those we immediately identify with; we act in discordance with the underlying laws of life and create arduous and painful karma for ourselves. This is the real devil, and it, too, lives within ourselves.

"Both these lead on Man, but one of them must prevail...." Which one shall it be? That is where our free will comes into play. We can choose which one of these guides we will listen to and obey. "Perennial joy or passing pleasure? That is the choice one is to make always," says the Katha Upanishad. If we look honestly and carefully at our lives, we will see that each and every moment provides us with a choice between the two. Go to the latest hit film or help a friend in trouble? Snub your enemy or greet her as warmly as you can? Let your mind wander aimlessly or reign it in and keep it concentrated on the spirit in all? Thus, choice by choice, thought by thought, deed by deed, we construct and reconstruct ourselves over and over again, eventually sculpting ourselves into a craven slave to life or a great spiritual master -- a devil or a god.


Our great writers down the ages have always made reference to one's Muse. Socrates referred to his daemon in the same light, while in eastern thought we find the word Jyoties, to denote "the light in the head." The muse is that voice within that causes one to produce singular expressions of a timeless quality. This internal process requires further understanding of our entire nature. Plotinus expresses recognition of this consciousness in "On the Descent of the Soul I":

Often when by an intellectual energy I am roused from body, and converted to myself, and being separated from externals, retire into the depths of my essence, I then perceive an admirable beauty, and ... I energize according to the best life, and become the same with a nature truly divine: being established in this nature, I arrive at that transcendent energy by which I am elevated beyond every other intelligible, and fix myself in this sublime eminence, as in a divinely ineffable harbour of repose.

Individuals sometimes experience intuitive flashes as a result of momentary "intellectual energy" as cited by Plotinus. This seems to be a spontaneous occurrence, nevertheless, one of singular importance.

How can one be roused to the conviction of an inner essence? Neither intellectual training nor blind belief suffices. Sometimes a realization to pursue a direction is inspired by a lofty example (such as perceiving the thought or action of others that are able to live from an idealistic or altruistic point of view). When experienced, one tends to continue on this plane of consciousness, described further by William Q. Judge in the "Synthesis of Occult Science":
... as the dawn of humanity illumines the animal plane, and as a guiding star lures the Monad to higher consciousness, so the dawn of divinity illumines the human plane, luring the monad to the supra-human plane of consciousness. This is neither more nor less than the philosophical and metaphysical aspect of the law of evolution. ... 'the vehicle of a fully developed Monad, self-conscious and deliberately following its own line of progress,' ... The original Monad has, therefore, locked within it the potentiality of divinity.
Unless we are consciously aware of the potentiality of our divinity, we are more than likely to think and act from Kama manas, guided by the lower desires. This is limited to the awareness of the personality.

By reversing this to the soul point of view, we hear our own Muse. William Q. Judge describes it in "Sheaths of the Soul": "...whatever Soul initiates, it has to pass along through the several sheaths, each reporting, as it were, to the one next below it; and in like manner they report from below upward in the case of sensations from natural phenomena and impressions on the outside."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay on "Self Reliance," refers to the source of this divinity:

We live in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams.

[Note: Here are the links to the two articles by William Q. Judge that were quoted from by the third student in the above article.--Compiler]:
(1) The Synthesis of Occult Science
(2) The Sheaths of the Soul

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