THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 4, February, 1949
(Pages 180-184; Size: 15K)
(Number 10 of a 15-part series)



WHAT is the secret of man's susceptibility to "concentration-camp psychology," religious authoritarianism, political regimentation, and possessive attitudes in family life? The sincere student of psychology regrets to see any of these trends and tendencies in action. If he is a confirmed idealist he will wish to encourage the hope that all these weaknesses in attitude can be transcended. Yet, without an adequate hypothesis to account for retrogressive divagations of the psyche, the outbreaks of unhealthy psychological tendencies can be treated only with experimental measures -- similar to those reserved for combating unknown diseases of the body.

In theosophical terms, modern psychology is severely handicapped by the absence of any comprehensive theory of the dual nature of mind. Perhaps the time is not long to come, however, before the development of a modern working-equivalent of Plato's Nous (the higher soul) and psyche (the lower soul). For contemporary psychology, there is still but one "psyche." An anxiety-neurosis is discussed by psychiatrists as if it were the inevitable result of environmental impingements upon "human nature." But what "human nature"? Is it not obvious that in some sense, at least, there are two "human beings" encased in every human body? Not all men have anxiety neuroses when confronted by similar heredities and environments, any more than all men exhibit an equal capacity to dedicate themselves to principles which transcend the egocentric predicament. Such men as the few who have achieved the latter, however, obviously transcend the influence of destructive psychic tendencies, or perhaps they absorb the energies of potential "anxiety neuroses" through re-combination with broad visionary purposes and ideals. At the present time it is only in the philosophy of Theosophy that the tendencies of the psyche are regarded both as a temporary necessity and as representative of but one part of Man.

There are two ways in which the modern world may possibly approach the Theosophical perspective. One means would be by a growing conviction of the reality of the moral soul, through some assertion of a pure religious faith in man's metaphysical destiny. Another means would be by exhaustive, objective analysis of all the constituents of man's psychic being which are harmonious with human progress and happiness, leading finally to the conclusion that the many aspects of man's tendencies not traceable to the "psyche" necessitate the positing of the same moral self which "pure religious faith" simply asserts as an a priori reality. If psychologists follow this roundabout path successfully, one thing at least will be certain: they will have a knowledge of man's psychic propensities never enjoyed by those who use, however effectively, the religious shortcut.

In the meantime, while vestiges of theological and materialistic prejudice are working themselves out in academic debate, Theosophical propositions in respect to the essential nature of the psychic being can be recommended publicly for their pragmatic, functional value alone. The psyche, in Theosophical terms, if uncontrolled by a dominant moral impulse, must inevitably follow the law of survival. Post-Darwinian speculations designed to ferret out the causes of human behavior may be accurate descriptions of the behavior of the purely psychic man. The supreme fear of the psychic man, for instance, is fear of death, for psychic intelligence knows only one thing -- that energy must be expended to preserve the corporeal organism which permits sensation, and the psychic self "thinks" only in terms of sensation. Popular religion has, in the Western world, gained much of its influence in human affairs by promising the possible resurrection of the body, for such religious doctrines suggest that the psychic self may hope to circumvent the fact of bodily cessation. When, therefore, we attempt to analyze the effect of Christian theology upon Western culture, we are led to conclude that insofar as these doctrines have concentrated men's minds upon the retention of physical sensation they have been primarily materialistic, and not transcendent and metaphysical at all. According to theology, all bodily sensation here and now tends to be Evil, but if we shun enough sensation in the present, we shall eventually get a properly sanctified portion of the same in a future life. And because theology gave indirect encouragement to the view that the body was of such importance, it became extremely easy for the attitudes of mind thus generated to pave the way, under the impetus of modern science, to a totally materialistic formulation of man's origin and destiny.

The fear of death leads inevitably to a fear of anything which interrupts sensation. Western civilization has been pre-occupied with fears of national or social eclipse -- loss of power, influence, wealth or property. For the psychic self, social eclipse is a kind of death, for it means the stoppage of certain avenues for sensual experience. The psychic self may be said to be jealously preservative of all avenues of sensation once gained. The psychic self will go into paroxysms at the loss of a lover, while it will leave the lover voluntarily in a split second if a more promising love is guaranteed. But the psychic self will give up nothing that means a diminution of sensation. Men have been known to spend the greater portion of their active lives in upholding untruths relative to themselves, if their social positions are based upon those untruths. Social positions are often simply means of retaining the maximum opportunities for sensation. There is no reason for an untruth at any time, except from the standpoint of the "psyche." Contrarily, "nous" is never served by falsehood, greed, envy, anger or hate.

When the psyche is in command of human destiny, no material wealth will ever be regarded as surplus. One does not care about the suffering of the poor or underprivileged. Men may exchange financial greatness for political greatness, but the psyche will only allow this if more sensational value is to be the reward of the new life. If social position will be either preserved or enhanced by charity, then charity, by all means. Also, the fear of the discovery of wrong doing is but another aspect of the fear of death, for social disapprobation means the lessening of all one's opportunities for indulging the pleasures of the senses. Spurred by the desire to avoid social disapprobation, innumerable men have endowed charities in the name of Christian principles, have undertaken to espouse causes, which may, of themselves, be worthy ones indeed. Yet, in such cases, we have simply another instance of the psychic man operating upon its principle of survival.

In a complicated civilization, of course, the psyche becomes extremely complicated in its maneuverings. Since there is always present in its world a strong current of moral idealism, even the purely psychic man realizes that he must have constant justification for his behavior. Membership in a church is often one of such justifications. The attitude which the psychic man takes toward his church is something like this: "At least my church is pure, and my zeal in furthering its interests will obviously make up for any lack of virtue in my personal life." Here the church becomes the psychic man's substitute for the moral self. The psychic man cannot allow a real moral self to enter into its jealously guarded world, for a genuine moral self would interfere. But the acquisition of carefully-calculated substitutes brings many extra advantages.

Just as some men seek to preserve their status in society through church allegiance, so do others seek preservation and justification through the creation of a "respectable family." A man may seek to "raise a family" and to instruct its members in all of the conventional virtues, simply because he wishes to establish himself favorably in the eyes of his fellow citizens -- or to protect whatever personal eminence he may have already achieved. The keynote to this attitude is revealed in those instances where husbands and wives are willing to be properly "good" and dutiful to the other members of the family as long as those others follow a designated pattern. Such men and women have desired the pattern as the mark of their own prestige -- they have not really chosen to exist on a free, cooperative basis with other human beings. Even the psychic self, in its peculiar way, knows that one must be Established in Society. There must be things that one can "count on," from dutiful wives and children, to cars in the garage and pressure cookers on the stove.

Nationalism is another effluvium of the purely psychic man. If one cannot reach sufficient personal eminence, it is possible to advance one's position by identifying oneself with the "superior" nation or race, which is, of course, very similar to man's identifying himself with the virtues of religion by supporting a church.

These, then, are the inevitable characteristics of the uncontrolled psyche. In the terms of such an analysis, we may see how it is possible for a large proportion of the forces which mold the modern world to spring from attitudes commensurate with the Law of Survival. The psyche simply represents a certain kind of intelligence, preservative -- but only on its own plane. It becomes the evolutionary task of the Moral Self to control and use this type of selfish energy in whatever manner will best lead to an increased cooperative rapport with one's fellows. We can change the characteristic of the human psyche in us, but the motivations of the uncontrolled psyche will never change. Its motivations will be always what we now see them to be, unless the principle of moral control is invoked. Therefore it is, on the Theosophical view, that when we come to the evaluation of any society, or of any religious or political forms -- when we talk about the value of Christianity, of the "family life" or of "patriotism" -- we must concede that a strong overlay of purely psychic motivation rests on top of each one of these expressions of group life. All these areas are legitimate fields of action for the moral man, but our politics and our economics, our social customs, and our family customs have been created during a cycle when the psychic, and not the moral, elements of man were dominant.

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:


Effective Theosophical work cannot be done unless there are found persons in the world who can see the necessity for it and will fit themselves more and more to supply the need. That certain persons find such an opportunity is their karma, but what they do with the opportunity depends upon their realization of its importance. Once we see something of what the Theosophical Movement means to the world, we are necessary to it -- not as persons -- but because we see and do. The Movement is accelerated by us to the extent we work for it, and hindered to the extent that we, as it were, let it pull us along. Of course, if we were dead and gone, or not able to grasp the great fact of such existence as the Lodge of Masters and Their work in the world, the great Movement would be going on in such measure as others -- perhaps not so wise nor capable in many ways -- might afford. So, every student who will strive to make himself a fitting instrument is necessary to the work, to his full capacity, Soul, Mind and Body. Having put our hands to the plough, and seeing the field that needs cultivation, we may push on in confidence and faith. More power is needed? It will come, if we will just open those big hearts of ours and let "them" work. 

--The Friendly Philosopher

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