THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 2, December, 1932
(Pages 49-53; Size: 14K)
(Number 2 of a 12-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 12 articles have the same name.]

THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE

SLEEP, dream, and waking are the three normal transitions of consciousness common to all organic forms of life. The first two are seldom studied except in their relation to waking existence, although anyone can see at a glance of direct perception that waking consciousness itself is but a state of the Soul, the Perceiver. Being itself relative, it is as capable of being compared and related to the other two as they are to it. And being relative, waking consciousness is necessarily as undependable a basis for comparison or conduct as the others, for though to us more ample it is nevertheless inherently partial and incomplete.

In the pursuit of Self-knowledge one has to look beyond any and all states, known, partially known, or unknown, if he is to find an all-inclusive and therefore unchanging foundation for "grave experiment and experience." That impregnable substratum and support can only be in consciousness itself, pure and simple, as distinguished from any or all of its states. All states are but definitions, i.e., limitations imposed by consciousness upon itself, directly or indirectly. It is the same Soul or Perceiver in any and every state, but what the Soul sees in any given state must necessarily differ from what it sees in other states -- or there would be only the one state. To act upon what is seen in any state, to make what is seen in one state the basis for comparison or action in other states, is to fall at once into "ignorance" -- that is to say, into misconception and misapprehension of the Soul, of its powers, of their use. This is unwisdom as opposed to Wisdom, and Soul, the eternal sower and reaper as well as perceiver, cannot avoid the results to itself of its actions whether based on Wisdom or on unwisdom.

All men have Self-perception in degree, no matter in what state they may find themselves. It is this fact which is meant or implied in the term "man." Being actually Self-consciousness, man cannot lose the sense of self, but that sense must vary enormously according to the state in which Soul exists at any given moment or period. "Mind" in a spiritual valuation is never any other than the sense of Self, whether as exercised in any given state, or as the sum of all possible states; just as the word "state" itself refers and relates to the sum-total of Soul-experiences possible from any given basis of perception and action. In the West, our best psychologists go no further than to group these various remembered or imaginable states of Soul-limitation under the hazy terms of Thought, Will, and Feeling, and call the combination the Mind. Nor do any of them distinguish the Soul from the mind, Self from the sense of self.

Whether regarded as the powers of Soul, or merely as the results achieved from the exercise of its powers by the Soul, it soon becomes evident that there are many more transitions than our waking, dreaming, and sleeping; many more states than thought, will, and feeling; and that all are inter-related, inter-active, and equally or relatively unstable and therefore impermanent.

All understanding springs primarily from action, and all action is based primarily on Soul-knowledge or Soul-memory. The activity of the one is will in some guise, and of the other is tendency in some disguise. Their interaction is thought, the psychic principle, which covers every range of feeling. As powers, nothing can be more self-evident, once the power of perception, of which all three are but aspects, is turned upon them, than that they are the primary directions of Soul-energy. As results achieved, effects perceived, they constitute the Mind in nature and in man.

Mind, then, has an universal, a hierarchical, and an individual meaning and application. In man as a hierarchy or order of being, the "Universal mind" wells up as Egoic self-consciousness, and in the individual Soul as its own unique sense of Self. The natural order of evolution could only be from the Universal to the individual on one arc of manifestation; from the individual to the universal on the other. On the one arc the sense of Self is gradually defined through an ever-narrowing constriction in the radius of action; on the opposite arc the definition of self is as gradually expanded until the sense of self is perfected by the conscious identification of the individual with the universal manifestation of SELF. The process during the first half must necessarily be wholly unconscious or only partly conscious to the Souls so involved; it must as necessarily become a more and more conscious process during the latter half if the purpose of all manifestation is to be achieved by the individual Soul in any given cycle of its evolution. In any event or eventuality, all manifestation is the manifestation of Soul; all evolution begins in Self, is maintained by Self, ends in Self. That is the finality of all existence and existences.

Any particular hierarchy or order of beings is thus, in plain matter of fact, a fraternity of Souls in a given stage of evolution common to them all. All these hierarchies together constitute the universal brotherhood of all Souls, whether awake, asleep, or dreaming with respect to the fact. So regarded, the real "purpose of life" is easily seen to transcend all human imagination and action, no matter how sanctified, as it includes all men, no matter how degraded, all beings, no matter how low in the scale of evolution as defined by us. So regarded, the three Objects of the Theosophical Movement of all time transcend, as completely as they include, all that is realized, all that is imagined, by the noblest and most devoted conceptions and applications of morality, ethics, religion, science, and philosophy. All alike are but translations and adaptations, where they are not perversions and degradations, by the man we know, the human being, of the Wisdom and Example transmitted by the providence of the Elder Brothers who have preceded us on the highway of Soul we name evolution. How few are awake to this spiritual and intellectual fact. How many do but gain momentary dream apperceptions of it. How vast the number of human Souls asleep to it!

With what else could Occultism concern itself, on any plane and in any form, than with the evolution of Soul, with the purpose of Life, universally, hierarchically, individually? The true pursuit of Self-knowledge is in the study and practice of Universal Brotherhood. Attempts to practice brotherhood are common throughout the whole vast extent of nature, not merely among men -- among the worst and the lowest quite as apparently as among the highest and best. Attempts to study the fraternity of natures and in nature are everywhere in evidence, as are the fruits of such assiduities. Surely they cannot represent right study and right practice, for in every direction any man can perceive evil as well as good, disease as well as health, disorder as well as law and order, and all constantly being transformed, the one into the other. The strongest and noblest has no more sense of stability and security than have others: "birth, death, decay, sickness, and error" afflict all alike. They are the evidence of the fraternity of Souls supplied by the dark side of existence, which enforces Life's great lesson as universally as Life's bright side teaches how to apply it. From this comprehensive perception of Universal Brotherhood only is it possible to appreciate two statements by H. P. Blavatsky in her "Secret Doctrine": that "neither Buddhas nor Christs can escape" Karma and Reincarnation; and that Nature sets apart "woe to those who live without suffering." There is enough of the radiation of the spiritual life in the most depraved and selfish heart to appreciate the compassion and the self-sacrifice shown toward it in its own hour of failure, if not of the Divine will to emulate the example set. And often, as is well-known, the very worst of men according to our canons of proportion will not merely go out of their way but will be at risk and pains themselves to show consideration and kindness toward the helpless. Whereas, by the same canon of ethics, the wealthy in possessions, in intellect, in strength, go unrebuked while they manifest the callousness of indifference to the woes of those whose only sin is poverty and privation. If the wicked among men are to stand condemned in our sight for the violation of the rights of others, what is the moral status of those whose sin is none the less grievous for being that of omission -- the failure to do what they might for the alleviation of the sufferings of the innocent?

The abstract and impersonal discussion of ethics and morality offends no one, but it awakens no one; rather, it lulls to sleep the Souls that left to themselves could not blind their eyes and deafen their ears to the cry for succor which everywhere appeals for human providence. But let a man proclaim that universal tolerance, charity, brotherhood, is the very law of laws, the sine qua non condition precedent to all true Soul-evolution -- and he is regarded as a fool, as insane, as a nuisance and menace to Society as it is constituted among men. The very expression "self-sacrifice" shows how natural morality, natural charity, natural common participation in life's good and evil fortunes, have come to be regarded. In his earliest efforts, as in his continued struggles, the aspirant in pursuit of Self-knowledge comes to realize that he has long misread human nature in himself as well as in his fellows. He finds, at his own cost directly that the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man -- a terrible discovery truly. And this, while yet he is aware that in sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution. Among civilized nations men have succeeded in making of the vice of selfishness an ethical characteristic, and of wickedness an art. The deliberate, premeditated, sustained study and practice of universal ethics is the sole criterion of Soul-evolution. All else is subordinate to it, mere ways and means to its fulfillment. The Spiritual status has to be regained here on earth in a human body -- here where it was lost by the reincarnating Ego.


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 BENEFICENT ATTITUDE

Question: If one affected by the action of another has no desire to injure that other, does that mitigate the action for that other?

Answer: Of course it does. But there are two propositions there. The one who has been injured is reaping what he has sown, or he could not have been injured. But he may by his change of nature and attitude and his desire to cease injuring others, refuse to do any evil in return. But the one who inflicts or still holds the injury gets all the reactions that flow from that attitude. He has not changed; he is still the same nature; still has the same desire. Oftentimes when one does injury to another and gets no return in kind, he is more incensed than ever. You cannot make another feel differently unless he wants to. So, while we may be thinking kindly of another, we cannot change his feelings. He alone can do that. So we might help him and we might not; but at all events we get the benefit of the effect of our own beneficent attitude. If we do not affect the other favorably, it is because he is so infected (not affected) that we cannot help him. It all depends on the nature of the recipient; on the "nature of the beast." Take a rattlesnake. No man, however kind his feelings, could change that snake's nature. --Robert Crosbie


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