THEOSOPHY, Vol. 40, No. 2, December, 1951
(Pages 53-58; Size: 17K)
(Number 8 of a 10-part series)

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

KERNELS OF WISDOM

"Men take less care of their conscience than their reputation."
IN an age of spiritual darkness, such as the present Kali Yuga period, the attention of most men's minds is centered almost entirely upon the material plane, with the result that introspection and efforts toward mental and psychic control are practically nonexistent. The pressures of business and social life are so demanding that the whole force of our being is absorbed in them. Where is the man, for example, who sets aside a definite period each morning to consider the great purposes of life, and the possible bearing of that day's events upon them? Where is the person who is watchful for an opportunity, at some time during the course of the day, of gaining a few spare moments for quiet reflection? How many individuals, before retiring at night, follow the practice of viewing the day's activities with impartiality, of evaluating things said and done, of subduing all biases of mind and heart? For the most part, we are completely taken up with things, exclusively concerned with the affairs of the personality, with the result that at the end of the day little of real spiritual advance has been achieved.

Some people say that the full expression of the personality is essential to happiness, that it is not good to concern oneself too seriously with the sins and faults of our common human nature. Others argue that self-analysis and introspection are morbid activities, leading only to despondency, that the freer one can remain from such considerations the better off he will be. Furthermore, it is asked, what is wrong with a stimulating evening at a night club or bar? What possible harm can come from the enjoyment of an entertaining program at home on television or radio? How else is one to share in the manifold blessings of his age, and take full advantage of the boons of science, which mark our superiority over peoples in other lands, who possess them not?

Theosophy has no argument with the idea that the active life is the normal one, or that many -- perhaps all -- scientific achievements possess genuine possibilities for good. It only states that none of these external things in themselves constitute progress; that real progress, in the only permanent sense of the word, is something which relates to the heart and soul of man, to his dealings with fellow men in daily life, to the use that he makes of anything, his time included. Furthermore, it holds that many of our social customs, besides being a waste of time, are definitely injurious to the human system, and a bar to progress. Is it not admitted by leading physicians that the use of alcohol is pernicious in its effects upon the cells of the brain, stunting the development of the better portion of the mind? Do not many teachers and educators agree that present programs of entertainment on television and radio, in excess, can almost totally inhibit the creative faculties, inducing a sponge-like passivity in the listeners? Theosophy holds that man is a soul, and not a mere body -- that he possesses within himself the undeveloped germs of adeptship, but that these can never be cultivated so long as they are ignored, or so long as one wastes his energies upon mere frivolity. The progressive mind should lend a portion of its genius to nobler themes, should refresh itself each day in the life-giving waters of thoughtful contemplation.

The reason, perhaps, why men take less care of their conscience than their reputation is because they live as persons instead of as souls. For what, after all, is reputation? Is it not but the outer garment of the personality -- that fragmentary portion of one's character which lies within the purview of others? Based almost entirely upon appearances, its popularity fluctuates from day to day, as the tides of public opinion go up and down.

Reputation is the value other men place upon our lives, while conscience is the honesty of self-evaluation. According to Theosophical philosophy, conscience is the voice of one's inner god, the distilled essence of all past experiences. It is the guiding star of the soul, as it shines through the billowy clouds of idea and emotion and impresses its light upon the consciousness as morality. It always prompts a person to do right, as he understands right to be, and though conscience may not be always infallible, it at least keeps the man who follows it true to himself. "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

How many men, today, however, care as much for inner sanctity as for outer fame? It takes strong souls to withstand the temptations of personal notoriety, and to follow truth and honor wherever they may lead, irrespective of what scoffers may say or do. Almost without exception, the ideal of twentieth-century aspiration is personal fame and glory, little consideration being given to the means by which it is achieved. In days of old, however, it was different. In the brighter periods of our history, a man would die rather than tell a lie, would go to prison for the sake of conscience, would prefer exile to even the most vaunted reputation, if gained at the expense of others, or dishonestly.

If men would give as much thought to protecting the reputations of others as they do to guarding their own, there would be less need for martyrdom in the world. Is it not a fact that many of the world's greatest benefactors have had their good names ruined by the jealousies and animosities of those they came to help? Consider the lives of Paracelsus, Giordano Bruno, Mesmer, and H. P. Blavatsky. All alike are looked upon as imposters, even though they conferred only benefits upon their race. One of the chief purposes of H.P.B.'s mission was to restore the good names of her predecessors, to remove the mud hurled by popular prejudice upon the honor of noble men. In the preface to her first book, Isis Unveiled, she said: "It calls for a restitution of borrowed robes, and the vindication of calumniated but glorious reputations."

The care of the soul, of which conscience is a part, should be an object of daily concern for every human being. Spiritual teachers, in all ages, declare the pre-eminent value of virtue and knowledge over the temporary blessings of material acquirement. They present the laws and principles of life which will enable man to know for himself, to gain control over his whole acquired nature, so that the divine potentialities of his inner self may fructify and grow. Just as the body has its organs and faculties of perception which must be used and developed for perfect health, so there is an anatomy of the inner man which requires daily attention. Can there be physical well-being for the person who is irregular in eating and sleeping, who takes no heed of the recognized rules of physiology? Can there be mental vigor and intelligence without a certain amount of serious thought and study? How, then, can one expect contentment of heart and soul, or to possess power to bear the burdens allotted him by Karma, without inner strength and equipoise, which depend first and foremost upon a clear conscience?

Leaders of thought are awakening, somewhat belatedly, to the fact that a change for the better in our civilization can come only through individuals, from within the heart and soul of man himself. The first need is for the pioneering spirit of brave souls who recognize intuitively that the foundations of the new race must be laid upon the base-rock of human integrity, and that the greatest service any man can render is to become a moral force for good, to establish in himself a code of action based on law, and not on greed, prejudice or retaliation. The patriot of this new order will be the man or woman who dares to be honest and altruistic even in the face of dishonesty and selfishness, who will be kind when others are cruel, who trusts even at the risk of being betrayed. Who knows the power of a life so lived? Who can measure the results for good of a single individual who takes real pride in his work, who would forfeit a day of his pay rather than put out shoddy and indifferent products? The spirit of apathy and lack of conscientiousness which gnaws at the moral fibre of the race can be combatted only by men of moral courage, who see the better way and take it.

Yet, it is not always easy to discriminate between the voice of conscience and the subtle lure of self-interest or emotionalism. Some have been known to claim guidance from the spirit of God above, when by every known standard of decency, the nature of their acts belied this pretension. Is it not true that the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition were inspired by the holy office of the Christian Church? Is it not a fact that the Crusades and other holy wars have been waged under the banner of religious belief and conviction? Equally inconsistent may be those who profess the noble sentiment of Universal Brotherhood, yet in their dealings in the privacy of home or business can be un-cooperative and mean, unmindful of the "voice in the wilderness." The mark of the conscientious man is not to be looked for in boastful claims to brotherly love, but in the quality of behavior in the homely walks of daily life.

If, in the silent councils of the heart, a man feels himself at peace with his own conscience, and therefore with all living things and beings, he will require no outside security. If he can look within himself, humbly seeking to purify his motives in all he says and does, then, even though his wisdom be not perfect, he need have no fear of public opinion. If he can find joy and contentment in the simple things of life -- in the beauty of a sunset, the warmth of sweet companionship, or the inspiration of a great idea -- he will feel less and less inclined to squander his energies upon things.

Might it be that the fear and suspicion we feel toward other people and nations is due to an inner perception of our own untrustworthiness and lack of good will? Might it be that our feverish search for external amusement is due to unwillingness to face our own conscience? The battle for peace of mind and heart must be fought and won within the man himself, the sages say. Until this is done, no external solace will suffice. Until the principles of man's own nature have been brought under control, it will be futile to win victories over others, or to build up for one's self a glittery soulless tower of worldly reputation.

In Light on the Path, the voice of conscience is referred to as the Warrior within, whom the disciple is admonished to seek out, listen to, obey -- else in the press of events, the magic of His presence may be overlooked.

Take his orders for battle and obey them....

Unconcerned in the battle save to do his bidding, having no longer any care as to the result of the battle, for one thing only is important, that the warrior shall win, and you know he is incapable of defeat -- standing thus, cool and awakened, use the hearing you have acquired by pain and the destruction of pain.

But how is it possible to hear the sweet melody while the whole of one's attention is directed to the noise of the Great Illusion? How can the Warrior take command so long as we are ambitious and self-willed, so long as the bearing of our nature is in the direction of notoriety and fame? To be heard, the still small voice must be hearkened to with dispassionate ears, with mind uninfluenced by the turbulence of desire. But once the covenant has been established, and the personality subdued, then may one stand aside, heed the command of the Warrior, and fear no wrong.

It was said of William Q. Judge that "He fears nothing, except his own conscience." Nothing on the outside can bring grief to the upright man, nor can anything external give happiness, contentment, peace. The fountain of everlasting joy is not to be found in the vacillating purgations of matter, but in the deep spiritual consciousness of man himself. And the nearer its precincts are approached, the simpler one's life will become. Instead of the multitude of cares that harass the spirit of ordinary men, the devotee has but one concern -- to do the bidding of his Higher Self. And though this inner guide, in the early stages of attention, may appear but as a whisper, a shadow, or a breath, the power of its substance will grow into the never-ceasing fire of devotion in our own hearts.


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:

THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES

The hero is the man of self-achieved submission. But submission to what? That precisely is the riddle that today we have to ask ourselves and that it is everywhere the primary virtue and historic deed of the hero to have solved ... Schism in the soul, schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme of return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardhearted work to weld together again the deteriorating elements. Only birth can conquer death -- the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new. Within the soul, within the body social, there must be -- if we are to experience long survival -- continuous "recurrence of birth" (palingenesia) to nullify the unremitting recurrences of death. For it is by means of our own victories, if we are not regenerated, that the work of Nemesis is wrought: doom breaks from the shell of our very virtue. Peace then is a snare; war is a snare; change is a snare; permanence a snare. When our day is come for the victory of death, death closes in; there is nothing we can do, except be crucified -- and resurrected; dismembered totally, and then reborn.... As we soon shall see, whether presented in the vast, almost oceanic images of the Orient, in the vigorous narratives of the Greeks, or in the majestic legends of the Bible, the adventure of the hero normally follows the pattern of the nuclear unit above described: a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power, and a life-enhancing return. 


--JOSEPH CAMPBELL (The Hero With a Thousand Faces)

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KERNELS OF WISDOM
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be; ..."
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