THEOSOPHY, Vol. 41, No. 2, December, 1952
(Pages 82-84; Size: 9K)
(Number 10 of a 10-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]


In the wreck of noble lives,
Something immortal still survives.

WHILE the Dark Age lasts, there will always be the tendency, no doubt, to measure good and evil, success and failure, in terms of external signs and appearances. Too evidently, in its pilgrimage toward Truth, Mankind has not yet reached the cycle where it has learned to look beneath appearance, through illusion, and to take into account all the invisible psychic factors and forces that make of man a complex cosmic being. That is to say, mankind in the mass has not yet reached a position of complete awareness and clear-seeing, although, for individuals, there is always the possibility of rising above the mass, by uniting Manas with the divine principle of Buddhi, whereby true light and understanding become immediately possible. In fact, it is only as individuals take this forward step that the race as a whole can evolve.

The tendency to measure progress in terms of externals has misled men into believing the traditional delusion that the richest people are the happiest and most successful ones. Only when men live as bodies instead of as souls can they be deluded into thinking that the welfare of the personality is all-important, that wealth, prominence, and social position are all that are needed to prove their mastery of life. Actually, personal success is more likely to stultify than to awaken. Real triumph does not pertain to the personality, but to the soul, and it may always be measured by perceptions of Unity, of love over hate, of humility over egotism, and of altruism over selfishness. In these terms, the most successful individuals may be the simplest and least known, their strong sense of humility and self-abnegation leading them to prefer obscurity to any measure of notoriety or fame. May it not be easier, too, for the obscure man to be free? -- for individuals who are unknown can walk the face of the earth unmolested, doing their duty by every duty, heeding only the dictates of soul.

Human history suggests that the immortal values possessed by any civilization are always born and reared upon the "wreck of noble lives." This is true, not only of the achievements of men and women who are prominent and well-known in their various fields, but of countless numbers of obscure benefactors and sacrificers who die practically unknown except to a handful of people. Time and again men of vision, the forerunners of a race, have been stoned and persecuted by those they sought to help. The wheel of human progress ever demands a heavy price for its advancement -- the price of personal, self-conscious martyrdom to a Universal Cause. It is only through endless labor and unthanked efforts that the ideals a few men dream of can finally be achieved.

Among the greatest benefactors of a race are the men and women who may be looked upon as failures in their day. Few of the really Great are ever accounted successes by their contemporaries, but, almost without exception, they are individuals required to stand alone, whose sympathizers are few -- but whose inspiration and vision open up for them perceptions of Truth of which the masses of men become conscious only after decades or centuries.

The life of H. P. Blavatsky is a notable example of the reception afforded Innovators by the established order of the day, no matter in what age they appear, or in what field or department of life they choose to work. It is a matter of common knowledge that H.P.B. was subjected to relentless vilification and abuse, not only from scientific and religious dogmatists, but also from supposed friends and students of Theosophy -- those upon whom she bestowed a teaching of the nature and destiny of their own souls. Of all those who called themselves her friend, in the early days of the Movement, William Q. Judge alone understood the nature of her mission, and later shared the martyrdom of her earthly career. Serving as buffers for the Movement they came to launch, these two took upon themselves the Karma of the world, the pent-up fury of countless generations of ignorance, greed, and ingratitude. Her personal life wrecked upon the rocks of sacrifice, H.P.B. wrote to a friend: "The T.S. lives, -- I am killed. Killed in my honor, fame, name, in everything H.P.B. held near and dear...." Yet "in the wreck of noble lives, something immortal still survives" -- the Movement she founded, the Cause for which alone she cared, lives on.

Many wish to be martyrs, but few care to remain unknown as such. Countless individuals are willing to sacrifice, to give of their time, money, and work, but the price of their devotion is personal recognition in some form. The great need of this age is for unselfish men and women, who are willing to forget themselves, to submerge their personalities in intelligent devotion to an ideal. That ideal which each man holds may or may not be recognized by others. Is it a small thing, do we think, for a man to spend the whole of his lifetime grappling with his faults, all unseen, in the secret counsel of his Soul? Is it without merit that, after months and years of effort, a person seemingly fails in the accomplishment of his aims? "No effort is wasted," say the teachings. "Each sincere attempt wins its reward in time."

No man, we may be sure, ever "attained" all at once. Many lifetimes of devotion are necessary to reach the goal. Some individuals, however, cannot bear to make mistakes; they wish to become perfect in a day. Shown to be at fault, they become impatient, losing their balance, and blaming everybody except themselves, especially the one who points out the error. But no man who tries, who does the best that he can, need ever fear failure or any number of mistakes. It is only when one does not try, or tries for self and not for other selves -- when he assumes an outward holiness he does not possess -- that the pangs of conscience are felt. Quite unconsciously to ourselves, if we are not watchful, we are likely to build up before our friends a false front of personal sanctity, a shining tower of our own self-importance, upon which we sit in haughty pride. It is the humiliation of being lowered from this tower, in the sight of friends, that hurts, not the mistakes we make.

The theosophical teachings make a distinction between the man of clay, the false ego, or personality, and the inner invisible spiritual man, who is deathless and eternal. Evolutionary growth and progression are carried forward by the latter, not the former -- the personality being but the field or instrument through which such growth is achieved. And the results and values of all efforts are retained in this inner man. How then is it possible to measure the spiritual progress either of one's self or of another? A person may go through a whole lifetime, striving to the best of his ability, with seemingly no progress made -- at least, so far as the eye can detect. But there is a fruition retained inside, and it will surely show forth, either in this or another incarnation. Something immortal survives from every attempt made at noble living, no matter how unsuccessful it may appear to be. It is the unseen sacrifices of obscure individuals that swell the tide of human progress.

[Reminder: The KERNELS OF WISDOM series has now ended.]

Back to the
series complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.