THEOSOPHY, Vol. 53, No. 12, October, 1965
(Pages 365-367; Size: 9K)


True discernment is an office of the human understanding. In and of itself it is a passive, though by no means a negative, quality. When this passive quality of the understanding becomes active, we discriminate. We discern by contrasts; we discriminate by choice or preference. Discernment belongs to the judgment of man as to qualities and things. Discrimination belongs to the will of man. It is an act of the will that anticipates results. To discern is to know; to discriminate is to do. 


Discrimination is a faculty, or power, whose range and value depend entirely upon the knowledge and understanding of the individual using it. All men use this faculty but in as many different degrees as exist between the densest ignorance and the highest wisdom. It may be called the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, and in the right place, on every plane of action. This necessitates a universal point of view, an understanding that covers the whole of nature, and a universal application of both. 

THESE complementary quotations from William Q. Judge and Robert Crosbie direct attention to the importance of human understanding as a kind of "bridge" spanning the gap between the "densest ignorance" and the "highest wisdom." Universal intelligence includes both extremes, making possible rapport on all levels of experience. We speak of putting ourselves "in the place of another" as the only way to really know that other. Analogously, whatever the degree of intelligence or whatever plane it may be acting on, it may be known in the same manner.

The Preface to Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms gives an extensive treatment of this idea. The term "knowledge" is used with greater meaning than is customarily given to it: "It implies full identification of the mind, for any length of time, with whatever object or subject it is directed to."

The mystery of Man is locked up in the mystery of Mind which, in incarnation, is dual: it fills the high office of discernment, and serves the multifarious needs of the senses. The reincarnating Ego -- the permanent Individuality -- is confused with "the body acquired by Karma" -- the personal, natural, animal-man. Between the two the gap is as wide as the abyss dividing the Divine and the demoniac; as deceptive as the rising and setting of the Sun. Consequently, "the path of action is obscure." The unitary nature of Mind must be realized.

The realm of human thought is bewilderingly filled with obstacles to this realization because of the identification of mind with a personality whose wants are mistaken for needs, which in turn become demands, drawing the energies of the mind toward concentration on externalities -- magnified, advertised, glamorized. And life, which could be a rhythm of right intentions initiating a stream of meaningful sequences, becomes a mere madness of movement leaving literally "no time for anything" that calls for serious reflection. Ideas become crystallized on false values that fix unyielding limits within which the incarnating Ego is doomed to "live and move and have its being." Until, perhaps, some catastrophe strikes or illness befalls, or a heart-stirring loss is experienced, or some old ties from another lifetime, it may be, set the mind to thinking, looking within.

Suppose in some life long-past I had a dear friend, or wife, or relative, with whom my intimacy was interior and deep. Death separates us, and in subsequent lives he devotes himself to truth, to wisdom, to the highest in him, while I go on careless of all but pleasure in the present. After many lives we meet again as either friends or acquaintances. At once the old intimacy asserts itself, and my former friend -- although maybe neither of us knows it -- has a strange power to touch my inward life, and wakes me up to search for truth and my own soul. It is the unexpended affinity, and by its aid nature works my salvation. (Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita.)
"The effect of affinities upon our acts and thoughts is enormous and wide. It anon saves us, and anon damns," wrote Mr. Judge. We learn from each other, and affect all life. Feelings of superiority, personal conceit, sectarianism, national pride -- miscalled patriotism -- and other vanities which separate man from his fellow-men stultify the mind which is the Soul's only channel for expression and experience. On the other hand, the power of empathy unites human beings and expands the Soul's field of experience. "To live and reap experience, the mind needs breadth and depth and points...," says The Voice of the Silence.

The terms "Universal Brotherhood" and "Spiritual Identity" challenge the mind to think universally. The passive quality of the understanding becomes active; discrimination grows; and knowledge gained is not lost, but becomes the "medium of communication" between the Ego and the personal man -- is, in fact, the "bridge," or Antaskarana. As explained in the Theosophical Glossary:

The term has various meanings which differ with every school of philosophy and sect. Sankaracharya renders it as "understanding"; others, as "the internal instrument, the Soul, formed by the thinking principle and egoism"; whereas the Occultists explain it as the path or bridge between the Higher and the Lower Manas, the divine Ego and the personal Soul of man. It serves as a medium of communication between the two, and conveys from the Lower to the Higher Ego all those personal impressions and thoughts of men which can, by their nature, be assimilated and stored by the undying Entity, and be thus made immortal with it, these being the only elements of the evanescent Personality that survive death and time. It thus stands to reason that only that which is noble, spiritual and divine in man can testify in Eternity to his having lived.

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:


Salvation is not escape from life. The individual works in the cosmic process no longer as an obscure and limited ego, but as a centre of the divine or universal consciousness embracing and transforming into harmony all individual manifestations. It is to live in the world with one's inward being profoundly modified. The soul takes possession of itself and cannot be shaken from its tranquility by the attractions and attacks of the world. The spiritual illumination does not make the individual life impossible. If the saved individuals escape literally from the cosmic process, the world would be forever unredeemed. It would be condemned to remain for all time the scene of unending strife and darkness. ... Mahayana Buddhism declares that Buddha standing on the threshold of nirvana took the vow never to make the irrevocable crossing so long as there was a single undelivered being on earth. 


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